Many Throng Gandhi Temple In Odisha’s Sambalpur; Pay Tributes To The Mahatma On His Jayanti

Sambalpur: As rich tributes were paid to the father of the nation across the country on Gandhi Jayanti on Monday, the day was observed in a novel way at a temple located in Odisha’s Sambalpur district.

The scene was unique at Gandhi Temple, which has been set up in memory of the Mahatma. The 154th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was observed with devotion and fervour at the Gandhi Temple located at Bhatra near Sambalpur.

On behalf of the Sambalpur district administration, Additional District Collector Pradeep Sahu visited the temple and garlanded the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Ramadhun was organised and an all religion prayer meeting held on the temple premises on the occasion, according to sources.

While school students recited Gandhiji’s favorite hymn “Raghupati Raghav Rajaram, Pati Tapavan Sitaram”, many officials of the district administration paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi on his birth anniversary. A host of intellectuals attended the event at the temple and paid tributes by garlanding the statue of Gandhiji.

The Gandhi temple was decorated and illuminated on the occasion of the Mahatma’s birth anniversary.

The presiding deity at the temple is Mahatma Gandhi and the priest, a dalit.

Situated at Bhatra, about 300 km from the Odisha state capital, this is stated to be the only temple of its kind in the country. There is a 3.5-foot-tall bronze ‘idol’ of the Father of the Nation in a squatting position inside the garvagruha (sanctum sanctorum) of the temple. The entrance has Ashoka Stambha, the national emblem, symbolic of peace and goodwill.

There are no religious sermons here, while the teachings and writings of Gandhiji are read out to the congregation. The priest says that some devotees begin their day by partaking prasad at this temple and end it by visiting it in the evening.

The temple was the initiative of Abhimanyu Kumar. It was inaugurated in 1974 by the then chief minister of Odisha (then Orissa), Nandini Satpathy.

A staunch Gandhian, Abhimanyu Kumar, who was Congress MLA for 18 years, had witnessed the caste and class divide first hand as also the atrocities committed by upper caste Hindus on the lower caste. With memories of being denied entry into temples in his childhood, Abhimanyu Kumar decided to make a temple in the memory of the “man who abolished untouchability”, when he became MLA in 1971.

Bapu was no less than God for him, so he had no qualms about elevating the “prophet of peace and non-violence”, as he called him, to that exalted position. Abhimanyu Kumar deliberately chose Bhatra as the mandir’s location since it is inhabited by a number of lower caste Hindus.

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