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Pradeep Pattanayak

The process for removal of sand from inside the assembly hall (Jagamohan) of the world-famous Sun Temple at Konark has started with the Archeological Survey of India performing the ‘Bhumi Pujan’ rituals for the same on Thursday. 

It has been planned to remove sand from the assembly hall by utilizing ultra-modern technology. It has been estimated that the entire process will take three years to complete. 

BDR Construction company will chalk out a mechanical platform for sand removal. Through this mechanical platform, sand and rocks will be removed from the 'garbha griha'. 

In the second phase, a road will be constructed with  five feet height and four feet width near the second 'Pidha' of the west gate, through which the sand will be removed from the 'sanctum sanctorum'. The process of sand removal is targeted to be completed within three years with the technical assistance of BDR company, informed an ASI official.

“We have been doing hard work for the last two years. We have done detailed documentation.  After conferring with several engineers and people having expertise, we have formulated a safe system,” said Superintendent of ASI, Arun Mallick.

Further, he went on to add, "The aim is to remove sand which was filled in the sanctum sanctorum after opening the four gates and stabilise the 'Jagmohan' so that it can be opened for the general public. 

“Besides a direction from the High Court of Orissa, we had also assurance from the Minister. Keeping all these in view, we have taken an initiative and started the work from today,” said Mallick. 

When asked about the time required for the completion of the project, Mallick said, “It can’t be said as to how much time it would exactly take because there are some aspects that are not in our control. We are now setting up a mechanical platform so that the work can progress at a fast pace. The platform will be placed from where we will make tunnels.”

To provide only technical know-how, BDR Nirman Private Limited has been awarded the tender. None but the ASI staff will be engaged in sand removal work. 

For the uninitiated, the assembly hall of the Sun Temple was filled with sand by the British in 1903. It was then done so to provide stability to the structure. 

In 2010, to ensure the safety of Sun Temple's sanctum sanctorum, several national and international archaeologists and engineers suggested removing the sand during an international workshop held in Konark.

Similarly, in 2015, Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) in Roorkee analysed the internal situation of the sanctum sanctorum through GPRS, laser scanning and endoscopy, and provided the assessment report to ASI. 

As per the assessment report, the sand in the main entrance of the sanctum sanctorum caved in around 17 feet. Even broken rocks were found on the sand. 

While ASI has begun the sand removal process, experts have opined that such major steps should have been initiated much earlier. 

"We welcome such a step, however, this should have been done 10-12 years earlier," said Anil Dhar, Historical Expert. 

While the move is being hailed by all, demands have been raised to inform about the entire process to the public. 

"As Konark's Sun Temple is iconic, every common people should be aware of the entire process of removing sand. Even, the steps taken for the preservation of the historical structure should be made public," said Ramakrushna Mohanty, Coordinator of Konark Suraksha Committee. 

It is pertinent to mention here that, India has 38 UNESCO World Heritage Sites while Odisha has only one. It is the black pagoda, dedicated to Lord Sun.


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