New radar survey around Puri’s Jagannath Temple triggers fresh row in Odisha

Published on May 22, 2022 10:19 PM IST

Following a PIL in the high court over the excavations causing harm to the structural safety of the temple, the ASI in its affidavit earlier this month said as no heritage impact assessment studies were conducted to ascertain the archaeological importance lying buried in the subsoil of 75 metre radius of the temple, many archaeological remains may have been destroyed by the careless digging.

Earlier this week, two half-broken lion sculpture pieces dating back to the Ganga dynasty were discovered from the demolished site of the Emar Mutt in Odisha’s Puri triggering more controversies over the way the temple corridor project is being undertaken. (HT PHOTO.)
Earlier this week, two half-broken lion sculpture pieces dating back to the Ganga dynasty were discovered from the demolished site of the Emar Mutt in Odisha’s Puri triggering more controversies over the way the temple corridor project is being undertaken. (HT PHOTO.)
ByDebabrata Mohanty

Bhubaneswar: The ongoing controversy over the alleged violations of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act around Puri’s Jagannath Temple due to excavations and construction around the prohibited zone of the 12th century temple deepened further with the Odisha government beginning the Ground Penetrating Radar Survey to trace any archaeological treasure beneath the soil since Saturday night.

The Odisha Bridge Construction Corporation (OBCC), a state government agency undertaking the 800 crore Srimandir Parikrama Project under which amenities such as cloak rooms, toilets and drinking water fountains are being built within 75 metres perimeter of the temple, started the ground penetrating radar survey with the help of the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, nearly two weeks after the Archaeological Survey of India told the Orissa High Court that such a survey was not done.

Following a PIL in the high court over the excavations causing harm to the structural safety of the temple, the ASI in its affidavit earlier this month said as no heritage impact assessment studies and ground-penetrating radar surveys were conducted to ascertain the archaeological and historical importance lying buried in the subsoil of 75 metre radius of the monument, many archaeological remains of the heritage site may have been destroyed by the careless digging.

Earlier this week, two half-broken lion sculpture pieces dating back to the Ganga dynasty were discovered from the demolished site of the Emar Mutt triggering more controversies over the way the temple corridor project is being undertaken.

The GPRS survey triggered a massive controversy on Sunday with national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party Sambit Patra coming down heavily on BJD MP Pinaki Mishra who three days ago had said the a GPRS survey has already been done in December last year. Mishra on his Twitter handle had said GPRS was duly done and therefore allegations about digging without doing GPRS were baseless. “History will identify these people as charlatans and malefic clowns who were obstructing development, security and conservation work of Puri Temple, purely out of selfish greed and unbridled malice,” he said.

Countering Mishra, BJP’s Patra said MP Pinaki Mishra has proved the adage ‘to hide a lie, a thousand lies are needed’ again. “The Odisha government went ahead with the digging work at the site in a hurry to hide the loophole it had built. The government should have first got the GPRS done and thereafter, it could have gone for digging of soil for construction,” Patra said.

Patra was backed by BJP MP Aparajita Sarangi, who said the present GPRS was done “to cover up the past mistake”.

However, BJD spokesperson Sulata Deo refuted Patra’s allegations saying the BJP spokesperson’s misleading statements are hurting the temple sevayats. “BJP should stop misleading Puri residents and politicising the heritage project. The sevayats of Puri who have donated their land will not forgive anyone for obstructing the Puri project,” Deo said.

Raising his doubts over the GPRS survey, senior Congress leader Narasingha Mishra said those who want to hide something, work in the dark. “Why is the Assembly House Committee on the project not working in full public glare? I request chief minister Naveen Patnaik to personally intervene in the matter. Since no excavation work can be done at the protected monument without ASI’s permission, it seems the government has done something amiss which is evident from the resolution,” said Mishra

Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati too broke his silence on the ongoing row accusing the government of trying to convert the Jagannath Temple from a ‘tapobhumi’ into ‘bhogbhumi’. “In order to avoid any harmful impact on Srimandir, the government should have carried out any construction work after consulting with architects, engineers and experts. After coming here, I got to know that the architects are saying that the ongoing construction activities will definitely have a harmful impact on the temple. If that is true, what is going on is not proper. It is also improper if the buildings coming up around the shrine hide the temple’s beauty,” he said.

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