Bhubaneswar, Feb 8 (ANI): On January 17, just days before the Pran Pratishtha of Shree Ram Lalla at the Shree Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir, Odisha government had inaugurated the renovated Jagannath Temple Heritage Corridor.
The Rs 800 crore project is aimed at improving infrastructure for visiting devotees to the temple set in the Holy City of Puri. The Shree Mandir Parikrama includes a 75-metre corridor surrounding the Jagannath temple complex, which, will provide pilgrims with a visual connect with the temple.
Getting this project executed was not an easy task, but in the hands of Naveen Patnaik's trusted aide VK Pandian the project took shape.
"It was sometime in 2018. I was travelling with the Chief Minister to Puri. He goes to Puri on New Years' Day. When we were travelling to Puri, first I saw as we passed one hoarding of Lord Jagannath, he was closing his eyes and prayed. Then after that, in another one kilometre, there was one more hoarding and he closed his eyes and prayed. And then I saw that entire road of 50 kilometres, wherever he saw Lord Jagannath's photo in the hoarding, he closed his eyes and prayed. So that gave me the courage to ask him. You are such a big Bhakt of Lord Jagannath sir; you want to do something for the temple. So, he said, I would be very happy if we clean up this place. This is how it all started, because of his personal commitment" Pandian said.
Pandian says his strong faith in Lord Jagannath and the courage of conviction shown by the Chief Minister were the main drivers behind the project.
"I go to Lord Jagannath temple every Saturday and I have seen how much people want changes to happen in the surrounding. They wanted to do Parikrama. They could not do Parikrama because the main road is the road in which they must do Parikrama. And it is congested there. It was a thoroughfare. It is the main road of the Puri town. So, we called the then MP and MLA of Puri and I only discussed with them. CM wants to clean up 75 meters all surrounding the temple. 75 meters was suggested by a judicial commission that for the safety and security of the temple" Pandian said.
"The MP and MLA put their hands on their head and sat down and said that, we do not think it is a good idea. Taking 10 meters itself is a mammoth task. Nobody has attempted. I told them that, CM had said that if you lose, it is okay. If I lose also, it is okay. I want this thing to be done. That was the conviction he had, the courage of conviction he had in doing this project" Pandian added.
"The Chief Minister was very clear and he said, I am in my fifth term. I want to do this for the people of Odisha. They have reposed so much faith in me and they have so much love, affection and respect and faith on Lord Jagannath" Pandian further said.
There was a huge political narrative being done. The temple is going to collapse. It is very easy to create this kind of negative rumours. And when you create a rumour, now you have a powerful social media. There are some people who are very good in social media narratives. So, when they do these things, it hits" Pandian said.
Pandian said the state government carried out extensive survey partnering with IITs and studying similar projects in India.
"We had ground penetrating radar study conducted by a Gujarat agency, which used to do it for archaeological survey of India as well. We had two rounds to find out if there is anything archaeologically important all surrounding the temple where we are planning to work. We had sent teams both to Amritsar and to Varanasi. Golden Temple. And learn about what kind of land acquisition processes they had undergone and what challenges they faced" Pandian said.
"About the risks involved, one is the temple's safety and security. Second, playing with the sentiments of Sevaks. There was absolutely no problem from the Sevaks side. They cooperated willingly. They came forward. People cried, not because they are losing their lodges, which was giving them a livelihood, not because their houses are being translocated. They basically cried because when they get up, they must look at the Lord" Pandian added.
The Rs 800 crore projected was funded by the state government.
Pandian says that despite political opposition Naveen Patnaik (/topic/naveen-patnaik) was determined to do something that had not been done for 500 years.
"The state government provided the funds. The Chief Minister provided generous funds to make people happy. We wanted to complete this temple project in January 2023. There was a Supreme Court case, which went on for six months to eight months. That is how it got delayed. There were vested interest groups who did not want this project to happen. There were political leaders who did not want this project to happen. They all thought that Naveen Patnaik will get name or Naveen Patnaik is doing it for elections. Naveen Patnaik does not have to do anything like this for elections. He wins otherwise also." Pandian said.