Odisha, major political, Jagannath Temple, Authority

Odisha opposes NMA’s draft heritage byelaws for Lord Jagannath Temple

The Odisha government, state’s two major political parties and servitors of Lord Jagannath Temple in Puri on Sunday strongly objected to the National Monuments Authority’s draft heritage byelaws which prohibits any construction activity in the 100 metre periphery of the 12th-century shrine.
The NMA under the Union Ministry of Culture has published the draft heritage byelaws of Centrally Protected Monument Shri Jagannath Temple and subsidiary shrines together with adjacent area in Puri in its website nma.gov.in and has invited suggestions and comments from the public till Februrary 18.
The National Monuments Authority said the draft heritage byelaws have been prepared as per Section 20(E) of Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 2010 and Rule 18 of National Monuments Authority (Appointment, Function and Conduct of Business) Rules, 2011.
Sharply reacting over the proposed draft, the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) in a letter to the Member Secretary, NMA urged him to withdraw the notification immediately “to protect the interest of the Lords, sevayaks and devotees at large.”
“I request you to immediately withdraw the draft notification under reference. If National Monuments Authority is still of the considered view that any further regulatory framework of any nature is required and further the cause of ”Mula Peetha” (original seat) of Shree Jagannath) at Puri, you are invited for a detailed consultation and discussion with members of Shree Jagannath Temple Management Committee (SJTMC) before any such fresh attempt is made,” SJTA chief administrator Krishan Kumar said in a letter to the NMA Member Secretary.
Kumar said that a large number of habitations (sahis), which are more than a millennium, existed around Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri. 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 an adverse impact on continuity of rituals of Lord Jagannath at the temple, the SJTA chief administrator said.
He also informed the NMA about ongoing projects of Sri Mandir in Puri. 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), he said.
“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 the 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.
Puri’s Lok Sabha member Pinaki Misra (BJD) termed the NMA move as a “conspiracy” by the Centre to stop ongoing beautification projects of the Jagannath Temple as well as Lingaraj Temple in Odisha.
“Outrageous attempt by the Central Govt to derail the extraordinary work being done due to HCM’s untiring efforts to improve surroundings of Shri Mandir and Lingaraj Mandir. Clubbing our living Gods” abode with mausoleums is blasphemous. Odia sentiments deeply hurt,” Mishra said in a twitter post.
He said that the SJTA has already written to the NMA explaining why the draft notification deserved to be withdrawn forthwith. “Hope and trust good sense prevails and this legitimate request is acceded to immediately,” Mishra said.
Puri’s BJP MLA Jayanta Sarangi said the draft byelaws of NMA are not acceptable. The people of Puri have already given up a lot in the name of development including demolition of houses, shops and mutts within 75 metres of the temple.
“There is a need to rethink on the draft notifications for the Srimandir”, Sarangi said, adding that he will raise the issue at the government level, if the need arises.
Taking to twitter, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said: “The bylaws are restrictive in nature and more time and consideration should be given on matters of such religious importance. Shri@prahladspatel has assured that GOI will not take any step that hinders the development of Sri Mandir & in anyway interferes with local sentiments.”
Pradhan said he has also requested Union Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel to publish these draft byelaws in Odia. “He assured me to uphold the best interest of the people of Odisha with highest regards for the sentiments of Lord Jagannaths devotees,” Pradhan said.
Meanwhile, a section of servitors living close to the temple staged a demonstration before the Lion’s Gate of the Jagannath temple Puri strongly opposing the provisions of the NMA’s draft heritage byelaws.
“We will not hesitate to take the matter to the Supreme Court as it directly affects the lives of hundreds of servitors,” said Binayak Dasmohapatra, a senior servitor of the temple.
As tension mounted in the holy city over the NMA draft notification, Puri District Magistrate-cum-Collector Samarth Verma said: “We are examining the draft notification. Steps will be taken on basis of suggestions from the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), district authorities, Srimandir servitors and other stakeholders”.