Jagannath Puri heritage corridor project to open to public on January 17, 2024
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik laid the foundation stone of the project in November 2021 for the development of the area within the 75-metre corridor of the boundary wall of the Jagannath temple to transform it into a pilgrim centre
The Jagannath Temple Corridor development project or the Puri Heritage Corridor will be dedicated to the devotees on January 17 next year, Puri King Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb said on Friday.
The much-awaited project– Srimandir Parikrama – for the beautification of the perimeter of the iconic Jagannath temple in the Puri, is being built at a cost of Rs.943 crore.
“The Parikrama project has neared its completion and will be thrown open for the public on January 17, 2023. A puja and havan will also be held on that day,” said Gajapati, who is the chief religious functionary of the famed temple besides being the chairman of the Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee
Shree Jagannath Temple administration chief administrator Ranjan Kumar Das said the inauguration ceremony on January 17 would be on a massive scale with devotees from India and abroad thronging the event.
“The people who had visited Puri ten years back will notice a huge difference now. I am sure the devotees will get a cosmopolitan feeling while visiting Puri after the project’s inauguration,” said Das.
Temple officials however said the 1.5 km long and 60-metre wide Shree Setu – the first trumpet bridge in Odisha – that would allow vehicles coming from Bhubaneswar and Brahmagiri to reach the Jagannath Vallabh parking spot near the temple would not be ready before February next year.
Land acquisition for the project began in November 2019 with over 600 people living around the temple giving up 15.64 acres critical for the development of the security zone.
It was cleared after a three-bench judgement of the Supreme Court headed by justice Arun Mishra in November 2019 suggested that a 75-metre radius around the temple be cleared of all structures for safety, security and improvement of the temple.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik laid the foundation stone of the project in November 2021 for the development of the area within the 75-metre corridor of the boundary wall of the Jagannath temple to transform it into a pilgrim centre.
The project got delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the issuance of draft by-laws by the National Monuments Authority (NMA) for the temple in January 2021 that prohibited any construction work within a 100-metre periphery of the temple.
The draft bylaws also prohibited construction within another 200 metres of it without the nod from NMA. However, the bylaws were withdrawn following a request from the chief minister. In June last year, the Supreme Court dismissed two PILs that challenged the renovation project calling it “frivolous litigation”.
Further roadblocks came in February last year as the Archeological Survey of India in Puri asked to state government to stop digging as it would be a violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act.
As the case landed in the Orissa high court, the ASI in an affidavit submitted that archaeological remains of the heritage site may have been destroyed during the excavation as no heritage impact assessment studies were done before the digging.
However, all roadblocks were cleared in September last year after the NMA granted a “no-objection certificate” for the construction of the reception centre – the most important component of the project – just outside the prohibited zone.
Once completed, the centre would feature all modern amenities, including a queue management facility for 6,000 devotees, baggage screening facility, cloakroom for keeping belongings of nearly 4,000 families, drinking water, toilet facilities, facilities for washing hands/feet, information-cum-donation kiosks, shelter pavilions for shade and rest, multi-level car parking, dedicated shuttle cum emergency lane for accommodating police, fire and emergency vehicles, an integrated command and control centre and souvenir shop among others.
State government officials said the Parikrama project was crucial for the temple as unlike the other three important Dhams, Puri did not have a parikrama marg.
Puri is the religious capital of Odisha and with a footfall of nearly 40,000 every day, there was a need to clean up the area around it. Earlier the temple periphery was highly cluttered, clogged by illegal construction and mutts, Das said.
Apart from the temple project, the state government is spending another Rs.3,300 crore for transforming Puri’s infrastructure under the Augmentation of Basic Amenities and Development of Heritage and Architecture (ABADHA) scheme.
For the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the opening of the Parikrama project ahead of the assembly elections next year would take care of much of its worries.
Political analyst SP Das said that the inauguration of the temple project would endear CM Patnaik to the people as Lord Jagannath is considered the greatest identity for the Odia community and the state’s history, culture, tradition and belief system are all centred to it.
“By using the Jagannath temple, Patnaik has effectively trumped the BJP’s [Bharatiya Janata Party] use of any religious card. He has already opened the purse strings for the development of scores of temples across the state. The recently launched Ama Odisha Nabeen Odisha Scheme is mostly being used for the renovation of temples across villages. Religion is a low-hanging fruit and BJD is using it effectively,” he said.
Ramakrushna Panda of the Communist Party of India said the inauguration of the temple project is fine as long as it draws more tourists, however, it should not be used for political gains. “The BJD started as a secular party, but now it has become another party that appeases religious fervour,” said Panda.