Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Several devotees, culture enthusiasts, mahantas and researchers of Jagannath culture have been miffed as around 20 mutts near Puri Srimandir were demolished on the pretext of the Jagannath Parikrama Project undertaken by the Odisha government. Though the BJD government had assured reconstruction of those mutts fearing backlash, the promise has long been forgotten.

On the other hand, with the state unit of BJP’s ‘Sankalp Patra’ or manifesto featuring the resurrection of mutts that carry the true identity and culture of the State, demolished during the construction of Srimandir Heritage Project in Puri, the issue has once again cropped up. 

Mutt culture and Puri 

Mutt culture is synonymous with Puri. There used to be centuries-old mutts surrounding the temple. Some of these mutts have connections with the temple. But the mutts coming under the 75-meter radius of the temple were razed to the ground to pave the way for the Srimandir Heritage Project. 

Mutts struggling for identities 

Over 18 mutts are now struggling for their identities. Uttara Parshwa Mutt has a deep connection with the temple. Yet it lost its everything except the ‘Gadi Gruha’ to the project. Its guest rooms, mahants’ rooms and pilgrims’ rooms were pulled down. 

The fate of Emar Mutt and Rathaballav Mutt is no different either. 

The mahants of these mutts alleged that the promise of the BJD government to resurrect the demolished mutts seems to be a pie in the sky. 

Mahantas resent eviction 

"The mutts within Parikrama Project area have been completely demolished. As per the relevant act, the mutts existing before 1947 should not have been touched. The concepts of mutt and temple were not at all defined. No rehabilitation measures have been taken yet which is quite unfortunate," rued Bijaya Ramanuj Das, mahanta of Kataki mutt.

"We are in the dark whether the demolished mutts will be resurrected or not. Whoever comes to power should work to revitalise the Odia culture rather than destroy it," said Narayan Ramanuj Das, Mahanta of Uttara Parshwa Mutt.

At a time when the BJD is being accused of destroying the mutts, the BJP, which is eyeing to form government in Odisha, has assured ‘opening of Ratna Bhandar’, ‘opening of four gates of Srimandir’ and ‘resurrection of mutts’ in its manifesto. Under the circumstances, chances have become brighter for the resurrection of the ancient mutts in the Pilgrim City and many culture enthusiasts have become hopeful again. 

In response, Jagannath culture researchers and mahants said whoever forms government shouldn’t be confined to manifesto and do something for the development of Jagannath culture.

'Demolition beyond restoration' 

"The ideology and culture of the mutts have been demolished along with their existence. I don't think the mutts will be resurrected again. There is every possibility that the promises may be forgotten as soon as the election is finished," said Jagannath culture researcher Suryanarayan Ratha Sharma.

"Written assurances have been given for the resurrection of the demolished mutts. We are hopeful that work in this direction will be undertaken after the completion of the election," said Ramakrushna Dash Maharaj, a mahanta and a member of Srimandir managing committee. 

Amid all the speculations and doubts, it remains to be seen whether the ancient mutts that represent the identity and culture of Odisha will be resurrected after the election or not.

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