Bhubaneswar: Two days after the Union Government withdrew the notification of the draft bylaws of National Monuments Authority (NMA) for Lord Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha Government has urged the Ministry of Culture to relax the proposed restrictions for Lord Lingaraj and Shree Brahmeswar Temples here.
The Commissioner of the Endowments, Odisha and Khurda District Magistrate, who is also the President of Lord Lingaraj Temple Trust Board, in separate letters to the NMA urged that the notification be withdrawn immediately as the two temples are “living monuments” as the Lord Jagannath Temple in Puri.
District Magistrate of Khurda, S K Mohanty in his letter said that the draft bylaws prohibit beautification and construction works around the temple. The state government has cleared structures on 75 metre radius of the Lingaraj Temple to develop a heritage corridor.
It was to get the technical know-how of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for conservation of the ancient structure that the trustees of Lord Lingaraj Temple Trust Board entered into an agreement with ASI on February 10, 1958.
“The agreement restricts and codifies duties and responsibilities of ASI vis-a-vis Temple Trust. The bare reading of the agreement indicates that the importance of Lord Lingaraj Temple as one of the Shiva Pitha for Hindus all over the world was given due consideration when the Trust Board agreed to involve ASI in certain conservation works of the ancient built structures, the Collector wrote.
He said that a large number of habitations (Sahis) housing servitors which are more than millennium old exist around the Lingaraj Temple.
These servitors have been providing services to the temple and the deity for long. As they are likely to be severely and adversely affected by the draft notification, they must be consulted before any process to restrict their rights is undertaken by NMA, the collector said.
This is also important as any adverse impact on servitors will have a direct bearing on the continuity of Niti Kanti (rituals) of Lord Lingaraj, his letter said.
Moreover, the State Government has recently acquired land and properties for strengthening the safety and security of the centuries-old shrine and also beautification of the peripheral areas under Ekamra Development Plan, he said.
This project will provide the pilgrims with facilities like drinking water, cloak rooms and queue management system, he said.
The acquisition by the government was made through negotiations and most of the people came forward to give away
their ancestral lands and properties for the comfort of the devotees who come to the city from faraway places, he said.
This was possible because of the deep religious and spiritual connection of the people with the diety and the temple, the letter said.
The Commissioner of Endowments, Odisha, C R Mohapatra in his letter to the NMA urged for withdrawal of the bye-laws framed for Brahmeswar Temple.
The controversy over the draft heritage bylaws erupted after the NMA, which is under the ministry of culture recently released the proposed heritage bylaws for the Shri Jagannath, Ananta Basudeva and Brahmeswar temples, defining various zones for their conservation and periphery development.
The draft bylaws for Ananta Basudev covers a section of the Lingaraj Temple in its regulated zone, while those for Brahmeswar have Bhaskareswar and Megheswar temples within its 300-m radius.
The NMA draft bylaws identifies space within 100 m radius of monuments as prohibited zones, while the area 200 meters beyond comes under regulated zones where no activities are allowed without prior permission of the Centre.
On February 8 the Centre withdrew the draft heritage bylaws for Shri Jagannath Temple in Puri after Odisha strongly opposed the move.
On Tuesday Union Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel said that only draft heritage bylaws for Sri Jagannath temple in Puri have been withdrawn. But it remained in force for Ananta Basudev and Brahmeswar temples in Ekamra Kshetra of Bhubaneswar.