| Experts of ASI inspect Nilachakra atop Jagannath temple. Picture by Sarat Patra |
Lord Jagannath and his siblings Balabhadra and Subhadra have been holidaying at the Gundicha temple since Tuesday. But their absence in the sanctum sanctorum at the Jagannath temple has not stopped pilgrims from visiting the “actual” abode of the gods. The shrine is still abuzz with activities.
Most people here believe that the Jagannath temple would bear a deserted look during rath yatra. However, hundreds of pilgrims are still flocking the 12th century shrine everyday.
Normally, around 50,000 pilgrims daily visit the temple. On a festive occasion, the figure doubles.
“Unlike other days, the inflow of visitors to the Jagannath temple might have seen a slide since Tuesday (rath yatra), yet many pilgrims continue to visit the temple despite the absence of the deities,” said Laxmidhar Pujapanda, the public relations officer (PRO) of the temple.
After catching a glimpse of the deities at Gundicha temple, pilgrims are flocking to the Jagannath temple to worship the sanctum sanctorum and other smaller shrines on its premises.
“The Lord might be spending his vacation at Gundicha temple, but the real abode of Jagannath holds a lot of significance. We cannot think of returning from Puri without visiting it,” said Sampadsri Burma, a resident of Nimapara in Puri district.
“The Lord’s absence in the temple at present hardly makes any difference. We got the same kind of spiritual vibes today as we felt during our previous visits to the temple on normal as well as on festive occasions,” said P.K. Chhatoi, a pilgrim from Cuttack.
The Ananda Bazar, where the Lord’s mahaprasad is sold in the temple, however, has been wearing a deserted look ever since the deities left for the Gundicha temple. Since the Lord is not present here, no mahaprasad is cooked in the temple’s kitchen.
Meanwhile, a team from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the custodian of the Jagannath temple, is busy inspecting the temple interiors and exteriors as well as the smaller shrines and Nilachakra (installed at the pinnacle of temple).
A 15-member team of experts from the ASI, led by state superintending archaeologist Ashok Kumar Patel, climbed atop the temple to check the condition of the Nilachakra (wheel) on Thursday.
“The sanctum sanctorum and temple walls are intact. No corrosion has taken place near the Nilachakra,” Patel told The Telegraph.
The Sri Jagannath temple administration was on Thursday supposed to decorate the wooden frames of the Kalahata Dwar (the entry point to the sanctum sanctorum) with exquisite silver handiwork.
“Nearly 300-kg silver has been used at a cost of Rs 85 lakh to decorate the Kalahata Dwar. The silver was donated by a private company in the state. Nearly 20 artisans from Banaras have been working on the art since the past three months,” said Laxmidhar Pujapanda.
Meanwhile, the boys from the National Cadet Corps (NCC) are on a clean up drive on the temple premises. “It is a routine job for us. We have been doing this for the past few years. We clean up the temple when the deities go on vacation during the rath yatra. Nearly 450 boys have been engaged in the drive,” said an official of the NCC group in Puri.