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Ramakanta Biswas

Puri: The sites surrounding Puri Srimandir where once centuries-old heritage of mutt culture that made the pilgrim city proud now home bicycle and shoe stands set up by local administration.

Experts and several religious institutions have questioned the rationale behind mushrooming of shoes and bicycle stands around the temple in place of the religious institutions and strongly criticised the alleged profit making motive of the district administration.

In the last five months, as many as 17 historical mutts within 75 metre radius of Srimandir have been pulled down as part of an initiative to enrich the heritage corridor of the 12th century shrine. Among the mutts, prominent were Emar mutt belonging to the Ramanujacharya sect, Bada Akhada, Sana Chata mutt and Languli mutt which have close connection with Srimandir tradition.

According to sources, Mati Mandap Sahi parking place signboard has been put up at the place where 700-year-old Emar Mutt and historic Raghunandan library were situated. After the administration razed it to the ground and took the possession of the land, now parking business is going on from the historic site.

Sources said Puri Municipal authorities completed the tender process for the parking stands in record time. While the tender process was started for motorcycle parking stand on January 24, the tender was awarded on January 29, raising the eyebrows of local residents and different religious institutions.

Priyadarshan Patnaik, convenor of Sri JagannathSena said, “The administration could have constructed parking space on razed sites of jail and Jagannath Ballav. However, it is painful that the parking stands have been set up by razing century-old mutts and Raghunandan library. World class heritage cannot be developed by razing traditional heritage.”

Viswa Hindu Parishad, Puri city president, Narayan Das also echoed the same sentiment. “People are eagerly waiting to see some development. However, the purpose for which the eviction was carried has not been served well. Now it has turned into a process to earn profit.”

Similarly, the administration has reportedly set up parking stands by evicting traders from old municipality market area. Though the administration had assured rehabilitation to the traders, it allegedly reneged on its promise.

“We have been evicted from the area four months back. The administration had assured us to allot shopping complex. Now it has given the place for parking stand,” lamented Pravakar Sahu, a resident.
Emar mutt trust chairman Sachidananda Das Maharaj also indirectly took a dig at the move of the administration.

“Creation of a spiritual environment around Srimandir is essential. However, art, culture and tradition should remain in place,” he said.

The response of the Puri district administrative officials could not be obtained.

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