Puri/Bhubaneswar, February 7: Taking a strong exception to the draft heritage bye-laws by the Centre, the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) on Sunday requested the National Monuments Authority (NMA), under the Ministry of Culture, to withdraw the draft notification on heritage bye-laws for the Jagannath Temple in Odisha’s Puri.
In a letter to the NMA Member Secretary, SJTA Chief Administrator Krishan Kumar requested to immediately withdraw the draft notification to protect the interest of the deity, servitors and the devotees at large and urged to have detailed consultations with temple committee before any attempt to make regulatory framework.
The development came after the NMA has come up with heritage bye-laws for the 12th century shrine proposing the 100-metre area around the shrine be declared as ‘prohibited area’ where no construction can be undertaken.
“If National Monuments Authority is still of the considered view that any further regulatory framework of any nature is required to protect and further the cause of ‘Mula Peetha’ of Shree Jagannatha at Puri, then 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,” said the SJTA chief in the letter.
The SJTMC entered into agreement with Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on August 22, 1979 for the conservation of the ancient structures.
“This agreement restricts and codifies duties and responsibilities of ASI vis-a-vis Sri Mandir. The bare reading of the 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 structures,” said Kumar.
Kumar further said that a large number of inhabitants (Sahis) which are more than a millennium-old also live around the temple. These habitations are of mainly ‘sevayat’ families, who have been rendering service to the deity since time immemorial.
“As the sevayats are likely to be severely and adversely affected by any intervention of the authorities like this draft notification, they must be consulted before any process to restrict their rights is undertaken by NMA. This is also very important as any adverse impact on sevayats has a direct bearing on continuity of Niti-Kanti (rituals) of Lord Shree Jagannath,” read the letter.
Besides, the State Government has acquired land and properties for strengthening safety and security of the centuries-old shrine for the project of Shree Jagannath Heritage Corridor (SJHC).
“The projects 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 project,” read the letter.
“Any regulation which has the potential to restrict development of facilities and amenities on lands voluntarily contributed by devotees of the Lord will hurt their sentiments,” said the letter.