Odia sentiments deeply hurt: Odisha MP on NMA bylaws

Bhubaneswar: The proposed bylaws prohibiting construction works around the Jagannath Temple in Puri drew sharp reactions from all quarters in Odisha.

Expressing outrage over the bylaws framed by the National Monuments Authority for Puri Srimandir, Puri Lok Sabha member Pinaki Misra termed it ‘conspiracy’ by Centre to stop ongoing beautification projects of the Jagannath Temple as well as Lingaraj Temple in Odisha.

Taking to microblogging site Twitter, he said that the notification on bylaws for Puri Srimandir proposing to impose complete restrictions upto 300 metre around the shrine have deeply hurt sentiments of Odia people.

Reacting to the controversial bylaws, Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) urged the NMA for withdrawal of draft application on ‘Heritage Bye-Laws for Shree Jagannath Temple, Puri, Odisha’.

“Shree Jagannath is the Aradhya Devata of Odias and millions of Hindus across India and the world. He is worshipped as Brahmadaru at his Mula Pitha at Puri. The divinity and worship of Shree Jagannath as the Lord of Universe is as timeless and as infinite as the cosmos itself. It is in this background of faith, religion and spirituality for millions of Hindus that any intervention by the authorities is to be looked at,” wrote SJTA Chief Administrator Krishan Kumar.

He said that Srimandir and all the properties belonging to Lord Jagannath in land records stand recorded in the name of Shree Jagannath Mahaprabhu. To manage the temple affairs, the servitors and all the properties of the Lords, Shree Jagannath Temple Management Committee (SJTMC) has been constituted as the statutory body under Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1955.

“It was to get the technical know-how of Archeological Survey of India (ASI) for conservation of the ancient built structure that SJTMC entered into an agreement with the ASI on August 22, 1979. This agreement restricts and codifies duties and responsibilities of ASI vis-a-vis Shree Mandira. The bare regarding of agreement indicates that importance of Shree Jagannath Temple as one of the Dhams for Hindus all over the world was given due consideration when management committee agreed to involve ASI in certain conservation works of ancient built structures,” the letter read.

The SJTA chief wrote that a large number of habitations (sahis), which are more than a millennium, exists around Srimandir. These habitations are mainly of servitors families, who have been rendering services to Lords since time immemorial. With imposition of restrictions, they are likely to be severely and adversely affected. They must be consulted before any process to restrict their rights is undertaken by the NMA. It may put adverse impact on continuity of rituals of Lord Jagannath at the temple.

Informing the NMA about ongoing projects of Srimandir in Puri, he said that the State Government has acquired lands and properties for strengthening safety and security of the centuries old shrine for the project of Shree Jagannath Heritage Corridor (SJHC).

“This project (SJHC) will also provide pilgrims with facilities such as drinking water, toilets, cloak rooms and Queue Management System. These properties have been acquired by State Government through negotiations and most of the people have come forward to contribute their lands and properties for the purpose of this project. Any regulation which has the potential to restrict development of facilities and amenities on lands voluntarily contributed by the devotees of the Lord will hurt their sentiments,” Kumar wrote to the NMA Member Secretary requesting to immediately withdraw the draft application.

He invited the NMA for a detailed consultation and discussion with members of SJTMC before any attempt is made for imposing restrictions around the temple.

Union Petroleum & Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan also opined that the NMA heritage bylaws are restrictive in nature and consideration should be given on matters of such religious importance.

He said that the Centre will not take any step that hinders the development of Srimandir and in anyway interferes with local sentiments. He also urged Union Culture and Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel to publish the bylaws draft in Odia language.

“He (Union Minister Prahlad Singh Patel) assured me to uphold the best interest of the people of Odisha with highest regards for the sentiments of Lord Jagannath’s devotees,” Pradhan wrote on his Twitter handle.

With the controversy intensified over proposed bylaws, Puri Collector said that steps will be taken on basis of suggestions from the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), district authorities, Srimandir servitors and other stakeholders.

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