Other States

Temple and mosque promote communal harmony in Odisha town

A mosque and a temple have been existing together for generations near Ganjam town in Ganjam district of Odisha.

These two places of worship exist side by side on the road that connects the highway to the remains of Potagada fort. The temple has Lord Shiva as the deity, locally known as Khambeswar. Interestingly water seems to be unifying factor of the two places of worship. The mosque and the temple are on two sides of a single pond. The mosque facing the road has the pond on its backside while the main gate of the temple opens to the bank of the pond. Water of this pond is used by devotees of both the religions, said Manoj Raula, a priest of the temple.

Mangaraj Panda, social activist and a resident of the area, said another unique feature of this symbol of communal amity is that both the temple and the mosque face the same direction -- that is the east. “Usually mosques face the west and temples face east, but here it seems as a mark of amity, main gates of both face the east. “Gone are the days when several Muslim families used to live in and around Ganjam town. But the mosque is well maintained although prayers are held there on special days,” Mr Panda added.

Till now there has been no proper documentation of this place. It is said that they are linked to the Potagada fort. Around 300 years back, Muslim rulers from the south had established the Potagada fort as their administrative headquarter in south Odisha because of its navigation facility. Later, the French took over this fort and the British East India Company had taken over Potagada in 1768. As per the elderly of Ganjam area, the Muslim ruler of Potagada must have established the small mosque and provided land and other provisions for the temple too.

Sabitarani Das, a teacher of the area, said those visiting the Khambeswar temple also bow down near the mosque as a mark of respect.

Recently, social organisation United Artists’ Association had helped in renovation of the temple. According to Mr Panda, during their childhood they used to play on the premises of the mosque and the temple without sensing any difference propagated by the fundamentalists. Even now, the children continue the same tradition learning basics of communal harmony from early childhood, said Ms Das and Mr Panda.

Although most of the time both the mosque and temple remain deserted, yet people of the area do not let any one disfigure their walls through graffiti.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2020 3:10:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/temple-and-mosque-promote-communal-harmony-in-odisha-town/article8597917.ece

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