BARIPADA: Mayurbhanj Palace, the crumbling edifice of Bhanj dynasty, has been proposed to be converted into a national museum in a bid to salvage the historical monument.
Construction of the century-old palace, which resembles the famous Buckingham Palace of London, began in 1804 on the direction of Maharani Sumitra Devi Bhanj Deo and it got its aura of majesty during the rule of Maharaja Krushna Chandra Bhanj Deo (1868-1882).
Home to six generations of rulers of Bhanj dynasty till 1956, Maharaja Pratap Chandra Bhanj Deo, the last ruler, sold the palace along with the bathing ghat at a throw-away price of `4.75 lakh in 1956, to the State Government. The walls of the royal bathing place which were covered with mirrors has been converted into a library-cum-reading room for Maharaja Purna Chandra (MPC) Junior College that was shifted to the palace in 1960.
The palace houses two colleges - MPC Junior College and Government Women’s College - where more than 2,000 Plus-II and Plus-III students are studying.
Now, the palace is in dire need of renovation. All its 126 rooms including the Central Darbar hall have developed cracks and the roof leaks during rainy season. Royal artifacts like weapons and ornaments are gathering dust.
Researcher DG Pani said an old temple behind the main college building is on the verge of collapse. “The temple resembles a pagoda housing several Jain and Buddhist statues. Nobody bothers to protect this heritage building,” he lamented demanding immediate conservation of the heritage site by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
The palace was given a facelift when former President APJ Abdul Kalam visited North Orissa University during the convocation on May 15, 2003. The facade was repaired and painted, but the plaster began flaking a few months later.
While verandah, roof and walls in Zoology and Botany departments and staff common rooms are in a dilapidated condition, the reading rooms and library need immediate renovation.
The college authorities have been facing problem during examination due to shortage of rooms. Though the Public Works Department (PWD) takes up repair work from time to time, roof of most of the rooms is unsafe.
An eminent citizen Sudarshan Singh demanded renovation of the palace on a war-footing and its conversion into a national museum which would attract foreigners and more revenue.