BHUBANESWAR /PURI: Even as the ambitious Shri Jagannath temple corridor project finds itself in growing controversy over the alleged irregularities and protests from Opposition political parties, the fate of 17 mathas remain stuck.
The centuries-old mathas including Emar, Mangu, Bada Akhada and Radhaballav were demolished between August 2019 and November 2021 for the Parikrama project. All the monasteries were present within 100 metre radius of the shrine and included commercial structures like lodges and shops, among other things.
The entire structures including commercial properties were razed to the ground except the small temples which house the deity (mostly Lord Jagannath’s idol), matha ‘gaadi’ (religious seat of the mahant) and a small room to store articles used for worshipping the deity.
Prior to the demolition, the government had announced to redevelop matha temples keeping in mind Kalingan style of architecture in general and specific traditions of the matha concerned. Though construction of public amenities is under progress, redevelopment of matha temples and relocation has not been started.
The required land for the purpose has not been acquired yet. Only after land transfer is complete, the approval for construction of new structures in the regulated zone of the temple can begin. The hurdles, at present, appear one too many. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is still awaiting the detailed project report (DPR) on redevelopment and renovation plan of mathas from Odisha Bridge and Construction Corporation Ltd (OBCC). Government will redevelop the matha temples but reconstruction of other structures is left to individual matha managements.
Special land acquisition officer Kailash Chandra Nayak said, OBCC will draft the redevelopment plan and send it to National Monument Authority (NMA) for approval after which construction will be undertaken by the matha managements under supervision of the former. Funds for reconstruction are already placed with the Commissioner, Endowments.
Mathas await Parikrama row to settle for their revival
Of the 17 mathas, land will be acquired for rebuilding 11 mathas. “Last year, agreements were signed between mathas and Puri Collector. Each of the 11 mathas were assured land in the range of 2-25 decimal for building new structures which will primarily include bhakta niwas and sadhu niwas for housing devotees and saints.
Foundation stones for the new structures were laid in the regulated area on Akshya Tritiya last year,” said Bijay Ramanuj Das, Mahant of both Emar and Uttarparswa mathas. As per the agreement, he said, land in the regulated zone currently belonging to Lord Jagannath will be recorded in favour of the mathas. Emar matha will be provided 25 decimal and Uttarparswa would get 16 decimal land.
However, OBCC officials say they have written to the government for Cabinet approval for land acquisition. Das said the State should hand over the land to mathas for work to begin. The government placed over Rs 84 crore compensation money with Endowment department against acquisition of land of the 17 mathas. Sub-Collector Bhabataran Sahu said the compensation amount is three times the current market price. “Since Srimandir managing committee is the owner of matha properties, the compensation money is pledged to the Endowment department,” he added.