When the Supreme Court rejected a PIL against the Sri Mandir Parikrama (SMPP) project of the Odisha government on June 3, Prime Minister Naveen Patnaik’s tweet was: “Tuma Ichha Bina Patra Te Heleni Ahe Jagannath. Jai Jagannath ( Without your wish not even a leaf moves, Jagannath. Jai Jagannath!) “Earlier, the Archaeological Service of India (ASI) had informed the Odisha High Court that the coastal city of Puri was under state control. The redevelopment works being carried out around Jagannath Temple for the Heritage Corridor Construction Project may damage the old 12th century temple complex.
But just a few weeks later, the Supreme Court backed the government’s heritage project. This is seen as a great victory for the government of Naveen Patnaik, which is looking forward to completing the project in 2023, a year before the Lok Sabha and assembly elections.
Temple politics began late in Odisha. Naveen adopted it after 2019, when the BJP acted brilliantly by winning eight of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the state. In 2014, the BJP had managed to win only one seat. Patnaik realized that the BJP was moving forward with a plan to create an aggressive Hindu wave in Odisha and thus destroy the regional identity.
With this in mind, he planned a sociocultural renaissance campaign focused on 11th and 12th century temples in Puri, Bhubaneshwar, and Konark in Odisha. Shortly after taking office as chief minister for the fifth time, he embarked on an ambitious program to make these wonders of Indian architecture more touristy. However, the ASI is trying to disproportionately benefit the BJP by slowing down the pace of work, which is desperate to take up Naveen Temple policy.
The 2019 Assembly and Lok Sabha elections were a big fight for Naveen’s party, BJD. For the first time in Odisha, many voters voted for the BJD in the assembly, but for the BJP in the Lok Sabha. The BJD was able to hold power in the state with 112 of the 146 seats in the assembly and the BJP only won 23, but Naveen’s ear has risen with the BJP’s expansion into the state. He focused on finding a countermeasure to this new political challenge.
On October 21, 2019, his cabinet approved a project to “preserve and revive the heritage city of Puri” with the Jagannath temple in the center. Naveen launched the AABADHA project (ABADHA, Scheme for Infrastructure Promotion and Heritage and Architecture Development) in 2019-20 to create an “aesthetically appealing, accessible and safe environment”.
An allocation of Rs 3,208 crore has been made for Abadha in three fiscal years. Of this, Rs 800 crore was donated to build a 75 meter wide corridor (SMPP) around Jagannath temple. It will have beautiful gardens, rest areas, drinking water, toilets and other facilities for pilgrims.
In addition, Rs 190 crore for the construction of the Jagannath Ballabh Teerth Center on five acres of land equipped with facilities such as a site for meditation and monastery development, restoration of religious and heritage lakes, a garden and a multi-level car park in addition to Jagannath 685 rupees. one million was earmarked for the construction of roads connecting the temple with the Gundicha temple and the Gurukul project.
According to Binayak Dashmahapatra, a servant of Jagannath Temple, this corridor is inspired by the corridor of Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi. However, unlike Varanasi, where all central and state institutions are united to implement the dream project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, here the MPPP is caught in a different kind of conflict between the center-state government. “People here are in favor of the project, but BJP leaders have a problem,” Dashmohapatra says.
Most BJP leaders refrain from talking about this issue. But Biranchi Tripathi, the party’s spokesman in the state, says: “Our concern is the security of the temple.” it is an infraction.
However, in terms of the administration and staffing of the temple, retired judge BP An overview of a commission headed by Das has also been helpful for the new government to justify the project. On average, 50,000 pilgrims visit this temple every day and at Rath Yatra this figure reaches 10 lakhs. Faced with this, the committee had called for immediate action to improve the security of the temple.
In addition, Meghnad Pachery, the temple’s 16-foot heritage boundary wall, has been hidden by the indiscriminate growth of shops, hotels and other commercial buildings. The 100-meter-wide path around the temple was reduced to only 5-10 meters in many places. There was no toilet inside the temple. “The temple’s elderly servants used to use some dark corner of the temple to urinate,” says an official involved in the restoration work.
Bibhu Mishra, a resident of Puri, says: “The entrance did not appear to be the entrance to a place of pilgrimage in any way. Pilgrims had to walk barefoot on a dirt road. Open drains, flies and the foul stools made it worse. ” These problems have existed for a long time, but after the rise of the BJP in the state, the government seems to have been alert and the temple has caught their attention.
The new government has opened its treasury for at least a dozen temples, including Samaleshwari Temple in Sambalpur, Maa Sarla Mandir in Jagatsinghpur, Birja Mandir in Jajpur, Tara Tarini Temple in Ganjam, Maa Chandi Temple in Cuttack and Neel Temple. Madhab and Nayagarh. Is. Apart from this, plans are also being made to widen the approach road by removing unauthorized constructions around both the Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar and the sun temple in Konark.
Work on SMPP and Lingraj may begin at lightning speed due to the Comprehensive Relief and Rehabilitation (R&R) package. In this project, the 50-square-foot (538-square-foot) homes were given three options: a single Rs 30 lakh assistance or a 520-square-foot residential unit or proposed 1.5-2 km from the facilities. Of the temple. 1,000 square foot plot in R&R Colony.
The land acquisition began in November 2019 and until February 2021, that is, the final master plan of the Shree Jagannath Temple Management Authority gave the green signal, the exercise to evict the area completed. Now people could see the boundary wall of the temple even from afar and the area around the temple was rejuvenated. 600 people lost their land, homes, shops and livelihoods, but there was no commotion throughout the process.
This surprised everyone, especially the BJP. A PWD official says: “We acquired 99 per cent of the land through the direct purchase scheme and only one per cent, we had to go to land acquisition. There are only five or six. pending cases in court.
Aside from suggesting some minor and ostentatious changes such as the relocation of the reception center and the office room to a 75-meter no-go zone, the ASI is unable to say exactly what bothers it. After the National Monuments Authority (NMA) gave its “no objection” in September 2021 to build a reception pavilion, a house and toilets within the containment area, the work of the ASI began at the roadblock.
Odisha government officials argue that the NMA is the ultimate authority of the Jagannath temple, as there are no heritage regulations under which the ASI can intervene. In May 2021, when he was contacted by the state’s director of culture, the superintendent of archeology sent a five-member team to the site. Following the review of this equipment, the NMA gave the green signal.
An affidavit filed by ASI in the Odyssey High Court also revealed that he had no major issues with the plan. He states: “Works such as toilets, drains, electrical cables do not fall under the definition of construction …[और] The ASI had objections to the plan of a reception desk inside the 75-meter-wide corridor. Even the director general of ASI, who was conducting inspections in Puri and Bhubaneshwar on February 21, 2022, mentioned that “the proposed facilities for devotees are necessary and can be allowed.”
According to BJD MP Amar Patnaik, the sole aim of the project was to “provide more facilities for pilgrims, especially the elderly, the disabled, women and children.” However, someone close to Aparajita Sarangi, a BJP MP from Bhubaneswar, criticized him. a public interest litigation was filed Senior administrative officials allege that Sarangi is making policy to take him from BJD.
“If Naveen takes over the beautification of the temples, the BJP’s agenda to incite Hindu sentiments in Odisha will become redundant,” says an official. The ASI’s tactic of delaying obstacles seems to be part of a political conspiracy. “Cooperation was also assured.
But the sudden change in attitude of the ASI is surprising. On February 27, 2021, when a presentation was made to the Vidhan Sabha, he had the support of all parties and representatives of all parties along with representatives of ASI and NMA were also present at the opening ceremony.
Although the pace of work at Jagannath Temple is slow, the ASI on restoration around Lingaraj Temple states that the remains of ancient structures were found during excavations here. Ramachandra Rath, a servant of Lingaraj, says: “There is a temple almost everywhere around Lingaraj temple.
The 9th-century Gaurishankar Temple is located in the middle of a busy road. The 14th-century Teertheshwar Temple is located in a private courtyard. The Bhabani Shankar temple of the same period was hidden behind shops and other unauthorized buildings. The government has restored the beauty and dignity of the temples by eliminating the invasions.
A new problem has arisen due to the sudden stoppage of work. With all shops and vendors removed, there is no place for pilgrims to sit and there is no provision for drinking water. Kabu Mishra, a servant at Bhabani Shankar Temple, says: “The ban on renovation has increased its many problems.”
According to Amar Patnaik, ASI is doing “temple politics”. The MP says: “The ANM is the body responsible for the monuments and everything around them, while the ASI must protect the archaeological remains. It is a pity that ASI goes out of its scope and endangers the works of development related to pilgrims.
Jagannath Temple of Puri
3,208 million rupees have been allocated for “Expansion of infrastructure and development of heritage and architecture in Puri” over the last three years.
From this project of Shri Mandir Parikrama will be completed, under which a 75 meter corridor will be built around the temple, the open area of the temple will go from five acres to 26 acres.