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Jagannath Temple in questionable state - stone slabs coming down

nabadip - Thu, 14 Jul 2005 22:17:23 +0530
Expert team visits Jagannath temple

Pioneer News Service / Puri

A nine-member technical team on Wednesday examined the Garbhagrhya (sanctum sanatorium) of Lord Jagannath temple. The team checked the sikhara and the nilachakra (disc) on the top of the temple.

Led by Prof G C Mitra, IIT-Kharagpur, the expert team also inspected the kitchen within the temple complex. The inspection took over three hours.

However, the technical committee refused to divulge the findings to the media. The team will soon submit its findings to the Government, said a spokesperson of the temple administration.

It is to be recalled that the disc on the sanctum sanctorum has reportedly been damaged due to saline wind from the sea.

NK Rath, former Secretary, Works, Deepak Dey, Chief Executive Engineer, Buildings, D P Mishra Chief Engineer, Works, two superintending enginees from ASI including Prof G C Mitra were part of the technical team.
nabadip - Sat, 16 Jul 2005 23:05:18 +0530
Puri temple groans under Govt apathy

Sisir Mishra / Umakanta Mishra / Bhubaneswar

You do not need a gun or a grenade to bring down the Lord Jagannath Temple as the authorities feared in the wake of the terrorist attack at Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya early this month.

Coming down of stone slabs at regular intervals, rusting of centuries-old iron clamps and dowels that hold the huge slabs of rocks in perfect symmetries, growing corrosion of sand stones, and now the cracks on the Nilachakra are sure pointers to the fact that not all is well with the temple structure.

A lackadaisical approach of the ASI authorities to protect the ancient monument coupled with a laid back State Government with regard to its concern for the Puri Temple will ensure that Puri turns out to be a Konark-in-making for our posterties, may be, a couple of centuries down the line.

The awesome Konark is the most tragic testimony of all monuments of India and a reminder of what may go wrong if the architectural marvels are not protected in time. This 'silent song on stones' as Tagore once extolled it, is now a shadow of its former-self. The main temple had collapsed some time in early 18th century leaving only a dilapidated mukhasala at present.

The health of Jagannatha temple is not too well either. The ASI awakened too late in 1980s to take up its conservation work. The tell-tale signs of the fact that the temple is not in good health were found when a huge piece of stone came down in 1980s.

The 12th century marvel is made up of huge slabs of sand stones that have been put in perfect symmetries with the help of iron clamps. Unlike Moghul structures where lime mortar was extensively used for bonding, the Kalinga-style temple architecture used iron clamps to hold together massive stone slabs.

The ASI, after taking over the site, started the conservation programme by deplastering the exterior of the monument. The British administration had put lime plastering to protect the monument from saline winds in 18th century.

But in the process of deplastering, it defaced many sandstone images. Moreover, the iron dowels were also replaced by rust-proof silver clamps.

However, the local architects and scholars were not happy with the conservation methods. Local artists and architects from Pathuria Sahi of Puri town allege that the ASI had replaced many stones during the deplastering.

While Dr G Chaule, then Superintendent Archaeologist of ASI circle, supervised the conservation programme, the major work was carried out by daily labourers who lacked in basic training.

When contacted the ASI authorities, who are in charge of the conservation of Lord Jagannath Temple, said, "Every thing is going according to plan. After removing the lime plaster carefully, we are applying the chemicals to protect the sand stone structure from saline winds."

But the locals question the wisdom and expertise of the ASI. If it is prompt, why did the 138-year Archaeological Survey India start the conservation only after stones started falling down?

Local architects also question the sincerity of the ASI and allege that not all parts of the present garbhagriha, where deplastering works is almost complete, was properly coated with chemical solutions.

The present Lord Jagannath temple was constructed by king Anagabhimadeva in late 11th century. The construction work was completed by his successor and subsequent additions were made during 15th century.

In the second half of the 18th century, cracks developed in temple walls and the Neelachakra. The Marathas who were ruling the State between 1753 and 1803 carried out the repair work. The British took over Orissa in 1803 and immediately after acquisition it went about repairing the temple in 1805.The conservation work has been meticulously documented in the Charles Grome report of 1805.

Unfortunately, the ASI, itself a brainchild of a Briton, Alexander Cunningham, failed to learn the need to have a detailed documentation done.

Why Lord Jagannath Temple, even the preservation work at the world famous Konark, the only World Heritage Site in the State, is going to dogs what with beautiful chiseled figures having lost their luster due to constant weathering.