Ramakanta Biswas

Puri: A secret tunnel discovered inside the 500-year-old Gangamata Mutt in Puri is now at the centre of a controversy with tourists, particularly foreigners, flocking the site after being allowed entry into the tunnel.

According to sources, foreign tourists in large numbers are visiting the tunnel which reportedly connects to the Ratnabedi of Srimandir. Similarly, another route in the tunnel leads to the old Rajbati in Shaymakali temple of Bali Sahi.

According to sources, there is a mention of the tunnel in the Chaitanya Charitamrita which says that the founder of Gangamata Mutt, Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya used to bring Chaitanya to the mutt from Srimandir through the tunnel. The tunnel exists since then though it got blocked midway over time. A few years ago, some historians and ASI officials had inspected the tunnel.

“The tunnel is very old and has been there before Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya. Freedom fighter Jai Rajguru used to hide in the tunnel while fighting against the British rule,” said Balaram Das Goswami of Gangamata Mutt.

Priests of the other mutts opined if the tunnel is preserved and developed, it will attract huge number of tourists.

On the other hand, Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) said there is no trace of a tunnel inside the Jagannath temple.

SJTA administrator (development), Ajay Kumar Jena, said “We did not find any tunnel inside Srimandir. We will find out to what areas the tunnel extends. After inquiry, we will discuss with our engineering team on whether further development of the tunnel can be done.”

“If necessary, we will seek the help of ASI in this regard,” he added.

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