BHUBANESWAR: After demolishing heritage structures and artefacts within the prohibited and regulated zones of Lingaraj temple, which it is redeveloping into an international complex, the state Government has decided to seek permission of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Strange but true. The 11th century shrine is a monument protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR Act) and located in the Ekamra Kshetra which has been declared a heritage zone.
Interestingly, the decision to seek permission came only after ASI served a notice to Works Department which is carrying out the redevelopment work as well as Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA), the regional development and planning body, which is supposed to safeguard the heritage zone.
The redevelopment work, part of the State Government’s grand heritage plan, not only violated the AMASR Act because no prior permission was obtained but also damaged ancient structures present in the area. Now, the beautification exercise has been put on hold. On Monday, Vice Chairman of BDA Prem Chandra Chaudhary approached the national archaeological agency in this regard.
"They will soon submit a proposal to ASI for carrying out the development work around Lingaraj temple which would be sent to NMA for approval," ASI Superintending Archaeologist Arun Mallik told this paper, when contacted.
During a recent survey of the area, ASI found broken sculptures from around the temple periphery after Odisha Bridge and Construction Corporation Limited and BDA excavated prohibited zone of Devipadahara Pond (also protected by ASI), Ekamreswar Temple and Lingaraj police station besides demolishing illegal constructions that sprung up in the area over the years.
As per AMASR Act, the 100-metre area surrounding the monument is declared a prohibited zone and another 200 metres is regulated area for the purposes of construction, reconstruction, repairs and renovation.
Any construction or repair work in that periphery of the monument requires permission from National Monument Authority (NMA) and ASI. Interestingly, neither did the Government consult ASI before undertaking the work nor did it seek permission from NMA.
As a result, the demolition drive led to damage of many structures which the ASI believes may belong to either Devipadahara tank or Ekamreswar temple. Prior to that, the ASI Additional Director General had visited Lingaraj temple and expressed concern over the work as it poses threat to the old structures.
On Friday, ASI served notices to Works Department and BDA following which the redevelopment exercise was put on hold. Earlier, the State Government had announced the Ekamra Kshetra Redevelopment Plan on 66 acres of land around the temple which encompasses construction of Lingaraj Entry Plaza and Lingaraj Heritage Complex among other things.