BHUBANESWAR/PURI: Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalalanda Saraswati on Wednesday turned the heat on the Odisha Government saying that the holy city will lose its spiritual core if the administration continued with its activities. Puri should not be made a picnic spot or exhibition centre for enjoyment of all in the name of development, he added.
Raising objection to the much-hyped Srimandir Parikrama Project, the seer cautioned the government against considering itself to be all-powerful because of the huge public mandate it enjoyed. It might change anytime, he said.
The Shankaracharya expressed deep anguish over destruction of heritage in the name of the project and said the pilgrim town is rapidly moving towards destruction. “We favour development but do not want the heritage site to lose its identity. Mutts are being demolished in the name of widening of roads which is not acceptable,” he added and said Puri is the religious capital and attempt should not be made to turn the ‘Tapobhumi’ into a ‘Bhogabhumi.’
“Puri should not be made a centre of Sura Sundari,” he said and added that the Prime Minister and Chief Minister should pay attention to the fact that the holy town is being distorted in the name of development.
The Shankaracharya’s stand prompted Opposition BJP and Congress to target the ruling BJD and demand a stop to the project work. BJP spoksperson Jatin Mohanty said now that the seer has clearly opposed the project, the Government must drop the project. The BJP is opposing the project as it is executed without survey and identification of existing heritage structures around Jagannath Temple, he added.
Congress joined the chorus as its leader Arya Kumar Gyanendra said the project is implemented in violation of the laws. Since the Shankaracharya’s views are highly respected by all Odias, his party will accept whatever decision is taken by the seer.
A cornered BJD hit out at the Opposition parties for politicising the issue and said the project was prepared and recommended by Srimandir managing committee. The project was conceived in 2016 and announced by the Chief Minister in December 2019 to transform the pilgrim town into an international heritage hub. A unanimous resolution was passed in the State Assembly to implement the project in 2020.
The BJD reiterated that foundation stone of the project was laid only after National Monuments Authority approved the proposal. “Leaders of all political parties and various other dignitaries were invited too. After this, work started. The ASI gave suggestions which were duly incorporated and modifications were done accordingly,” he added.