Devotees Flay Odisha Govt, ASI For Damage To Jagannath Temple

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Puri: The extensive damage caused to the Jagannath temple in Puri by the extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani has evoked widespread resentment among devotees and residents in Odisha.

The iron scaffolding put up around the main temple by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), to stitch cracks in the beam and roof joints, could not sustain gale winds of over 200kmph when the storm made landfall.

The scaffolding collided with the outer temple wall before falling off, leaving a one-and-a-half-inch crack on the Ramanandi Chita, akin to the Aanla Bedha (cap stone), under the Neelachakra (blue wheel) atop the temple. The crashing scaffolding also broke the ‘gara’ (a brass pot) placed atop the Lord’s Bhoga Mandap.

Surprisingly, neither the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) nor the ASI authorities have shown any concern. Till date, SJTA has not asked ASI to assess the extent of damage. Neither have ASI authorities visited the temple on their own.

Taking a dig at SJTA and ASI authorities, Nrusingha Mahapatra, a senior servitor and Chunara Sevak of the temple, said the servitors had asked SJTA to remove the scaffolding around the temple as ASI has completed repair and restoration work.

“But SJTA ignored our concern and instead told us to give the suggestion in writing. We had again brought the matter to the notice of the temple administration after a mentally challenged youth climbed up the temple through the scaffolding. This time, the temple administration, instead of completely withdrawing the scaffolding, removed three layers of it from the top portion of the temple. Now you see the effect. The crashing scaffolding has weakened the entire structure of the temple,” he rued.

Mahapatra also claimed that the scaffolding, while colliding with the outer temple wall, opened up cracks in some parts of the temple. As a result, rainwater has seeped in through these cracks and entered the garva griha (sanctum sanctorum). Rainwater has also entered through cracks in the roof of the Jagmohan, he said.

Some servitors showed mediapersons the Baraha temple, the pot-shaped finial (Kalasa) of which was completely damaged when the scaffolding came crashing. Besides, the idols of two lions have been completely damaged.

Apart from the main temple, mediapersons noticed the pitiable condition of the dummy structure of the Jagananth temple between Bimala and Bhubaneswari temples. Architects had built the main temple according to the design of the dummy structure on which multiple cracks have been found. “Sadly, no one has even thought about its preservation,” disgruntled servitors said.

The servitors also showed multiple cracks on the surface area around the ‘Kalpa Bata’ after the century-old tree was uprooted by the cyclonic storm.

Admitting the damage, Jagannath temple public relations officer (PRO) Laxmidhar Pujapanda said electricity and water supply to the temple have been badly hit due to the cyclone, because of which daily rituals of the Lords were hampered on the day the cyclonic storm hit the Puri coast.

“Almost a week has passed and the temple administration has not taken any steps to restore power supply to the temple. It has arranged only a diesel generator, which starts functioning right from the opening of the temple till its closure at night after the Badasimhara Besha (attire) of the Lords. The intelligence wing has time and again asked the state government to beef up security, as the temple is on the hit list of terrorists. Under such circumstances, the temple should not remain in dark as that could give ultras the  advantage to barge in and cause colossal damage to the 12th century shrine,” said a resident.

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