Stone blocks fall from gateway of medieval temple

Kendrapara: Two stone blocks fell off from a 300-year-old Baldevjew temple here in Kendrapara district. Though nobody was injured, it has brought to focus the unsafe status of the temple.

The stone blocks weighing about 30 kg fell off three days ago near the gateway structure of the ‘jhulan’ mandap of the medieval age temple. The mandap used to serve as rest house for servitors and devotees.

“While the temple was built during Marahatta rule in early 18th century, the Jhulan mandap was comparatively a new structure. It had come up during the early sixties. Lack of maintenance of vital structures has threatened the temple”, Akshaya Pani, a member of the temple trustee, said.

Safety of Baldevjew temple dating back to the reign of Marahattas is at stake due to lackadaisical attitude of state archaeology department (SAD). Since past two years, the temple is undergoing the process of severe wear and tear. But the authorities concerned have simply turned a blind eye towards conserving it, Pani said.

The district administration has drawn the attention of SAD for undertaking the conservation project of the heritage temple. “We have called upon the SAD to carry out foolproof conservation work without further delay. The department has made a commitment to expeditiously launch the project within a fortnight”, Kendrapara collector Durga Prasad Behera said.

Two years back, the summit structure (dadhi nauti) of the medieval age place of worship had developed a major crack. A month later, some portions of ‘bhog ghar’ (lord’s kitchen) had caved in.

On-the-spot inspection by archaeologists was followed by an announcement that a comprehensive blueprint was being readied to give the structures a much-needed facelift.

But more than a year-and-a-half later, things remain the same with no immediate sign of the much-awaited repair and conservation of the temple.

“It remains to be seen when the government agencies will wake up. Non-maintenance is taking its toll on the temple. Nothing has been done as yet to plug the crack. The SAD inspected the temple and made tall claims. But repair work is yet move an inch”, Dharmadarshi Kar, a servitor, said.

“The conservation project would be undertaken very shortly. The state government has accorded clearance to the 13th Finance commission grants for state-protected heritage sites project. Rs 30 lakh worth refurbishment project is getting underway shortly for conservation of Lord Baldevjew temple”, SAD Curator, Ashwini Satapathy, said.

“The ‘dadhi naitu’ or the summit structure of the main temple where the cracks had developed would be taken up for limestone plastering work. There would be de-plastering work on exteriors so that it could withstand nature-induced corrosion. Besides Jhulan mandap, snana mandap, mukhadwara, Maunsimaa temple and vasudev temple are also being taken up for conservation”, Satapathy said.

“The temple was built in 1707 year during the Marahatta subedar rule in coastal Odisha. It’s a four-way structure and is devoid of architectural design. The Marahatta style of temple building was mostly simple without intricate stone carvings”, Bijoy Kumar Rath, archaeologist and former superintendent of state archaeology department, said.

“It seems the medieval period structure is bearing the brunt of vagaries of nature. It requires instant conservation work”, he felt.