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Controversy around Odisha’s Jagannath temple Heritage Corridor Project

  • Published
    25th May, 2022

The Archaeological Survey of India told the Orissa High Court this month that no permission was granted to the State government for construction around temple.

  • The ASI noted in a report submitted to the Orissa High Court that there was every possibility of archaeological remains at the heritage site being destroyed due to the excavation work for the corridor.
  • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) recently said that another sculpture of a lion, which possibly dates back to the Ganga dynasty, was found during excavation for the controversial heritage corridor project around the 12th century Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha.

Puri Heritage Corridor Project:

  • The Puri Heritage Corridor Project is a ?3,200-crore redevelopment project of the Odisha government in Puri to create an international heritage site, including the 800-year-old Jagannath temple.
  • The Odisha government has listed three objectives for the revamp of the area around the temple-
  • the security of the temple,
  • the safety of devotees, and
  • the creation of a religious atmosphere for devotees
  • Conceived in 2016, the Puri Heritage Corridor Project was unveiled in December 2019 to transform the holy town of Puri into an international place of heritage.
  • The project includes redeveloping major portions of the holy town and in the vicinity of the Jagannath temple for visitors and tourists.
  • The project will include:
  • Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) building redevelopment
  • a 600-capacity Srimandir reception center
  • Jagannath cultural center including Raghunandan library, integrated command, and control center, Badadanda heritage streetscape, Srimandir amenities improvement, Sri Setu, Jagannath Ballav pilgrim center, multilevel car parking, municipal market development, Swargadwar development, Pramod Udyan, Gurukulam, Mahodadhi market, beachfront development, Puri lake, Musa river revival plan, Atharnala and housing for sevayats.
  • The project is a part of the Augmentation of Basic Amenities and Development of Heritage and Architecture (ABADHA) schemefor developing Puri as a world-class heritage city.

The Controversy:

  • The Jagannath temple has been designated a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey and is a centrally protected monument.
  • Under the “The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act”, any new construction within 100 metres of a temple are prohibited.
    • The area extending to 200 metres around the monument in all directions is called a regulated area.
  • As per the provisions of the AMSAR Act, the National Monuments Authority (NMA), set up in 2011 under the Ministry of Culture, is charged with protecting and preserving ASI-protected sites by managing the prohibited and regulated area in the periphery of such a site.
    • If construction has to be undertaken in the regulated or prohibited area, permission from the NMA is required.
  • But for the Puri Heritage Corridor project, the National Monument Authority has issued a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the state government for the construction of a cloakroom, a shelter pavilion, three toilets, an electrical room and a pavement within the prohibited 75-metre zone.
  • However, the ASI had found that the ongoing construction work of the Shree Mandira Parikrama Project had “no valid permission or no objection certificate (NOC) issued by the competent authority”.

About Lord Jagannath Temple:

  • The Jagannath Temple of Puri is an important Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath (a form of Vishnu), located on the eastern coast of India, in the state of Odisha.
  • It is believed to have been constructed in the 12th century by King Anatavarman Chodaganga Deva of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty.
    • Anantavarma Chodagangadeva is also known for building the Sun temple of Konark and Puri is considered as the cultural capital of Odisha.
  • Jagannath Puri temple is called ‘Yamanika Tirtha’ where, according to the Hindu beliefs, the power of ‘Yama’, the god of death, has been nullified due to the presence of Lord Jagannath.
  • This temple was called the “White Pagoda” and is a part of Char Dham pilgrimages
    • Badrinath
    • Dwaraka
    • Puri
    • Rameswaram
  • There are four gates to the temple-
    • Eastern ‘Singhdwara’ which is the main gate with two crouching lions
    • Southern ‘Ashwadwara’
    • Western 'Vyaghra Dwara'
    • Northern ‘Hastidwara’
  • There is a carving of each form at each gate.
  • In front of the entrance stands the Aruna stambha or sun pillar, which was originally at the Sun Temple in Konark.
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