Mrunal Manmay Dash

Conforming to the fears of lakhs of Jagannath devotees around the world, the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) on Monday revealed excavation and soil removal work during construction under the Srimandir Parikrama Project may have destroyed the archaeological remains of the heritage site.

In a report submitted to the Orissa High Court, the ASI stated that during the joint inspection followed by onsite discussions with Odisha Bridge & Construction Corporation Limited (OBCC) and Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) officials, it was found that the ongoing construction work of the Shree Mandira Parikrama Project has no valid permission/NOC issued by the competent authorities.

The drawings and structural designs included in the revised Detailed Project Report (DPR) by the State government are different from the one presented to the National Monuments Authority (NMA). Frequent changes have been noticed, the ASI stated.

The ASI feared there is every possibility that the agency (OBCC) during the excavation/soil removal might have destroyed the archaeological remains of the heritage site.

The startling revelations by the ASI starkly contradict the statement made by Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb who had said the shrine is completely safe and the project does not possess any threat for the temple.

The ASI has made it clear before the Orissa High Court that it had not granted any permission to Odisha government to carry out the construction of the heritage venture.

According to sources, the ASI in an affidavit clarified before the High Court bench that it had not given nod for any type of excavation or construction work in the 100-metre prohibited area around the Jagannath temple as per the guidelines of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958.