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Chunks fall off old temple

The portion (encircled in red) of the dilapidated Baldevjew temple in Kendrapara from where stone blocks fell on Saturday. Telegraph picture

Kendrapara, Nov. 24: Two stone blocks, each measuring more than 30kg, fell off from the exterior structures of the 300-year-old Baldevjew temple here early this morning leaving servitors and devotees in a state of panic.

Though the temple was crowded because of the ongoing holy panchuka brata, nobody was hurt in the mishap.

“There were many devotees, mostly women, at the temple when the mishap occurred. We heard a deafening noise, which left everybody in a state of panic,” said Nrusingha Patri, a servitor.

Earlier, stone blocks had fallen off on a number of occasions from various parts of the temple, raising safety concerns.

The temple was built in 1707 during the Maratha rule. In the past two years, there have been reports of cracks and corrosion developing at strategic spots. But the conservation work was not taken up expeditiously. The Telegraph had highlighted the dilapidated condition a number of times.

The Odisha government has recently taken up conservation work of the medieval shrine after public outcry. The Odisha archaeology department is carrying out the conservation work at present.

“De-plastering of the outer portions of the temple is being carried out at present as part of its conservation. The stone blocks have fallen off a de-plastered zone. The mishap took place because the de-plastered portions were very weak because of corrosion. However, there is no cause for safety worries as scaffolding has already been installed. We have asked the temple authorities to maintain distance from the zones where repair works are on,” said the curator of the Odisha archaeology department, Ashwini Kumar Satapathy.

The temple’s conservation work has been taken up with the central government’s heritage conservation grant of Rs 50 lakh. The Odisha archaeology department is executing the work. “Emphasis is being laid on conservation of the dilapidated portions of the temple. There is no immediate threat to the temple. However, it requires renovation so that the heritage shrine can withstand nature-induced corrosion. The conservation work is being carried out in a phased manner,” he said.

A number of structures in the temple have been earmarked for the repairs. The dadhi naiti (summit structure) of the main temple, where the cracks had developed, would be taken up under limestone plastering work. Besides, the snana mandap, the Mukhadwara, Mausimaa temple and Vasudev temple also came under the purview of the conservation work, said an official.

“For the safety of visitors and servitors, we have asked the archaeology department to erect barriers at the spots where repair works are being undertaken,” said Kendrapara collector Durga Prasad Behera.