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Intach alarm over damage to Odisha heritage amid ‘beautification’ drive

The peripheral redevelopment plan of Lingaraj Temple was approved by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.   | Photo Credit: Special Arragement

The controversy over the destruction of ancient monuments around the 11th century Lingaraj Temple in Odisha’s capital Bhubaneshwar amid a State-sponsored redevelopment drive, spiralled with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) stating that irreparable damage had been done to the temple and ancient shrines around it.

The INTACH’s findings come close on the heels of Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan urging the Union Culture and Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel to help salvage and preserve priceless ancient architecture.

The Odisha government’s Ekamra Kshetra beautification project is aimed at creating space adjoining the Lingaraj Temple to accommodate around two lakh devotees expected to visit the temple for the festival of Shivaratri in March. The space in front of the ancient temple can now barely accommodate 10,000 to 15,000 devotees.

Guidelines ignored

“We find that no standard guidelines have been followed by the project implementation authorities and excavating teams. Irreparable damage has been done to adjoining ancient shrines,” INTACH’s preliminary investigation says.

It pointed out that the use of heavy equipment such as bulldozers and earthmovers in a sensitive zone, dotted with ancient temples, was against all norms.

Carvings destroyed

“This has resulted in massive damage to the invaluable decorative entities of this temple. We saw many carved stone pieces and blocks having fine stone works of the glorious Eastern Ganga era scattered all around the temple premises,” observed INTACH.

According to the Trust, the Suka Sari temple precinct is one of the important locations in Ekamra Kshetra that is mentioned in various ancient treatises like Ekamra Purana and Ekamra Chandrika.

“Demolition of the 700-year-old Shiva Tirtha Matha was also assessed. Except for a small 225 sq ft temple present inside the Shiva Tirtha Matha, everything has been razed and the stone blocks used to fill the plinths of the surrounding. The surviving temple is perched high on an earthen mound, and is prone to collapse. Moreover it is clear violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR Act),” it said.

Pointing out violations of the AMASR Act, Mr. Pradhan had also requested Mr Prahlad to send a team for carrying out scientific cleaning of the two-acre land adjacent to the Suka Sari temple complex.

Intervention by the ASI might stall the Naveen Patnaik government’s ambitious multi crore beautification programme.

The State government had earlier announced a project to give a ‘facelift’ to the 11th-century Lingaraj Temple. The redevelopment is being taken up over 66 acres of land surrounding the temple. The government has proposed to spend more than ₹700 crore for the temple project.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 2:16:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/intach-alarm-over-damage-to-odisha-heritage-amid-beautification-drive/article33731478.ece

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