Seers Cry Foul Over The Demolition Drive Around Puri Jagannath Temple! Why Is The Odisha Government Pulling Down The Heritage Sites Around The Temple?

The Shree Jagannath temple of Puri is known as one of the most important temples for Hindus. It is famous for its Rath Yatra in which the deities are pulled on huge temple cars or chariot.

But, now the Puri Jagannath temple is going through the toughest phase as the Odisha government took a unilateral decision of demolishing structures within 75 metre radius of the temple in order to prevent ‘terror attacks.’

A statement from the Chief Minister’s office read: “Terrorism is a major problem all over the world. Terrorists have no religion, but they target religious places. It is important that recommendations for the security of Sri Mandir be implemented. I know that some families will be affected. However, a sacrifice is necessary for Sri Mandir’s security. Cooperate with us thinking this is in service of Mahaprabhu (Jagannath).”

Hundreds of houses, religious institutions including Mutts and other commercial establishments have been demolished by the government.

Although, the government has announced Rs 500 cr for the rehabilitation of the affected people and the development of the temple town, it has destroyed the age old building in and around the temple which can never be restored.

Under the relief and rehabilitation package, all the families coming under the security zone of the Puri Temple are entitled for compensation and will get Rs 50,000 as transportation charges for relocation. A monthly assistance of Rs 10,000 will be provided to the affected families till they get a permanent house or land.

For commercial establishments, the State government has announced two types of assistance. The affected small, medium, large commercial units will get monthly assistance of Rs 5,000, Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000 as rent and will be provided shops at various market complexes in Puri.

Several seers also opposed the move and called it a conspiracy but the government was adamant in demolishing the buildings and the mutts.

Sources claim that most of the mutts around the temple was built 500 years ago to impart religious lessons and now provides food and shelter to the visitors.

Seers claim that the government has said that the mutts will be rebuilt at another place but it cannot replace the original.

They also claim that the demolition has a sinister motive and plotting the destruction of the Hindu Religion.

It is said that the Odisha government is relying on the controversial report by a commission which is headed by Retired Justice BP Das. The state government claims that the buildings around the temple are unsafe and pose a threat to the people living there.

The mutts consisted of rare manuscripts and books which are now kept in the government buildings.

The first Mutt to be demolished was the Languli Mutt followed by the oldest Emar Mutt which had to prepare bhog for the deity for period of two weeks after the deity returns to the temple from the annual Rath Yatra. It also had huge granaries from where the grains were supplied to the poor. One by one various mutts with religious significance were knocked down by the government.

Over the next few weeks many other heritage structures will be pulled down, which include Markandeshwar Sarovar. The Baseili Mandir, Kapal Lochan Mandir, Basa Chata Mutt, Radha Ballabh Mutt, Raghaba Mutt, Kousalya Das Mutt and Utar Parswa Mutt.

It is said that the trust had petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the demolition which also was of no use as the Supreme Court appointed amicus curiae, accompanied by Tushar Mehta visited the temple and has backed the demolition move.

The demolition has affected the age old traditions that were followed by the temple authorities. It has also hurt the sentiments of many seers. Although there are requests from various seers and temple authorities to stop the demolition the Odisha Government is turning a deaf ear to their pleas.

Sharanya Alva