Union minister proposes collection drive for beautification of Jagannath Temple
In a letter to Puri king Gajapati Dibya Singha Deb, Union minister for petroleum and natural gas, Dharmendra Pradhan urged him to launch a mass fund collection drive to enable contribution by crores of devotees of Lord Jagannath for the development of the Jagannath Temple heritage corridor.
Wary of the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal walking away with all the credit of beautification of major temples like the Jagannath Temple in Puri, the opposition BJP in Odisha now proposes to start a fund collection drive for the 12th century iconic temple on the lines of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.
In a letter to Puri king Gajapati Dibya Singha Deb, Union minister for petroleum and natural gas, Dharmendra Pradhan urged him to launch and lead a mass fund collection drive to enable contribution by crores of devotees of Lord Jagannath and Odias all over the world for the development of the ₹3200 crore Jagannath Temple heritage corridor.
“The drive should be transformed into a revolution in which all the Hindus across the globe would get a chance to serve Lord Jagannath both physically and through donation for the development of the 12th century shrine,” wrote Pradhan, drawing parallel to similar efforts for the proposed Ram Temple in Ayodhya town of Uttar Pradesh. He also assured the Centre’s help in waiving off income tax on the funds from the devotees in the country as well as abroad. Besides, several banks will come forward to extend their help in this regard,” he said.
Last week, the 45-day-long nationwide Ram Temple Nidhi Samarpan campaign managed to collect nearly ₹2100 crore for the construction of Ram Mandir, at least ₹1000 crore more than what the fundraisers had estimated initially.
Pradhan, who recently donated ₹1 lakh to the Jagannath Temple, requested the Gajapati to act like a bridge between the Centre and state for smooth operation of the fund collection drive. Pradhan's appeal to the Puri king came a day ahead of BJP's Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita Sarangi taking out a heritage walk through the old town area of the city dotted by numerous heritage temples demanding that the state government should not bulldoze and demolish heritage structures in the periphery of monuments during beautification drives.
Sarangi, who last week wrote a long letter to chief minister Naveen Patnaik seeking answers on why the state administration bulldozed several heritage mutts around Jagannath Temple over the last 2 years, said people in Puri are aghast that mutts associated with the most revered saints have been razed to the ground in Puri.
“People are left with a sense of disbelief that Mathas/heritage monuments which were so closely associated with our religious belief system, integral to the daily and special rituals of Lord Jagannath, have been demolished,” she said.
Political analysts said Pradhan's letter to the Puri king and the Bhubaneswar MP's heritage walk is a clever attempt by the BJP not to allow BJD to walk away with all the credit on the temple front.
“BJP does not want to be seen as opposing the beautification drive of temples. Pradhan through his letter to the Puri king wants to ensure that BJP remains a part of the temple beautification drive. In a deeply religious state like Odisha, BJP is acutely aware of the importance of the temple card. While the NMA draft bylaws on heritage temples put a brake on the BJD's plan, it wants to endear itself to the Odia people through a fund collection drive for Jagannath Temple,” said political analyst Rabi Das.