Odisha Urges Centre to Repeal Bylaws on Jagannath, Two Other Temples

The Odisha government has taken a strong exception to the Centre’s recently proposed heritage bylaws for the Jagannath Temple in Puri and Brahmeswar and Ananta Basudev temples in Bhubaneswar and has demanded its immediate withdrawal. The laws also whipped up a storm on microblogging platform Twitter, with many claiming that it offends Odia sentiments and thus must be scrapped at the earliest.

Drafted by the NMA, the bylaws prohibit construction within a 100-metre radius of the Jagannath Temple and restrict construction, re-construction, repair and renovation activities to a radius of 300 metres.

Concerned authorities have already shot off a letter to Sanjukta Mudgal, who heads the National Monuments Authority (NMA), asking her to do away with the laws. The state government has voiced concerns that if the draft laws were to be enacted, then it might adversely affect beautification and development drives at the Jagannath and Lingaraj temples. Besides, the laws also intended to curb the powers of the servitors and would have the possibility of offending the sentiments of the devotees, it said.

The Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) said that the laws would have the potential to evict its servitors from the premises, many of whom have been living around the shrine from the 12th century itself. “A large number of millennia-old habitations (sahis) exist around the temple. The families of the servitors (sevayats) stay there. They have been rendering their services to the temple since time immemorial. They are likely to be hit by this draft notification,” the temple’s chief administrator, Krishan Kumar, said in the letter.

The SJTA also said that it is doubtful of the legality of the ongoing restructuring and beautification work for the Jagannath Temple if the laws were to come into action. Recently, even the Odisha government had acquired a patch of land to provide safety and security to the famed temple that attracts millions of tourists every year.

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