Pradeep Pattanayak

With mutts and lodges near Srimandir in Puri being demolished to give way to the Srimandir Heritage Corridor Project, devotees, for whom those facilities were a godsend during their visit to the holy city, are facing unspeakable hardships during these wintry nights. 

These days, it is common to find devotees along with their children spending nights on the sides of the grand road or shop verandahs. They are left with no other option since the lodges and mutts they would frequent due to their pocket-friendly prices have been pulled down. Baring the seats of mahants and deities, about 18 mutts, smaller and bigger ones, have been razed. The lodges and inns encountered the same fate. 

“The mutts have been demolished and we don’t have money either to afford hotels. So what would we do other than spend nights in the open,” said a female devotee. 

Echoing the same, another female devotee said, “We are poor. We can’t pay the charges of hotels and lodges. So we are forced to spend nights on the side of the grand road.”

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Meanwhile, some mahants alleged that the government is planning to sell off the lands of mutts. 

“They have already prepared a plan to sell off the mutt lands. Almost 50 percent of people coming to Puri would stay in mutts free of cost. In addition, they would also relish the Prasad prepared in mutts without paying a pie,” said Bansidhar Das Goswami, head of Bada Odia Mutt. 

However, the chief administrator of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), Ranjan Das denied the allegations. 

“There is no such plan to sell the mutts.  Rather we are resurrecting the mutts. The Odisha Bridge and Construction Corporation (OBCC) has already prepared a blueprint for the same. The resurrection work of some mutts has also been started. A deadline has been set for completing the work by May or June next year,” said Das. 

When asked, Puri district collector Samarth Verma said, “A low-cost Dharamashala project is underway at Baseli Sahi on behalf of the OBCC.  Once completed, 4,000 to 5,000 devotees can stay there.”

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