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Govt slams ASI on Puri temple repair

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 1: The state government has threatened to move court against the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for not carrying out repair work expeditiously at the 12th century shrine, Sri Jagannath temple, in Puri.

No work has been done for the four months despite an Orissa High Court order to the ASI in March to take up repair of the singha dwara (lion’s gate) on a war footing.

The temple management committee has expressed concern over the tardy progress in the repair and restoration job. Temple chief administrator Arvind Padhee said: “No visible work has been done by the ASI so far for restoration of the temple. As the Nabakalebar festival is scheduled for July 2015, it has become urgent to complete the revamp soon. If the dilly-dallying continues, we will move the court.”

Culture and tourism minister Maheswar Mohanty also voiced his disappointment with the expert body. “After cyclone Phailin, no work has yet been taken up by the ASI. It will become difficult for them to complete repair and restoration of the temple by 2015 when Nabakalabar is going to be observed,” said he.

Nearly 50 lakh devotees are expected to throng Puri to witness the famous festival in which the idols of the Trinity will be changed.

However, an ASI team had visited the temple yesterday. ASI superintending archaeologist Bhuban Vikrama said: “We have already filed an petition with the high court seeking more time to complete the work. We will engage skilled workers in this regard.”

Significantly, the ASI’s technical committee has prepared a status report, which carries a word of caution on the temple structure. The report points out that though the complex is well preserved without any major serious conservation problem, the plaster has become weak at some places.

“The structure is standing on the southeast direction from the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) of the main Jagannath temple in which direction a fault line is suspected as several structures were affected in this direction earlier. It is advisable to regularly monitor and check for any sign of distress on the temple structure,” the report said.

The committee has found minor lapses in the conservation, especially on joint sealing of stones and laying of tiles on roof of kurma bedha (inner boundary around the main temple) at a few places. Lapses were also found in installation of inferior stones at some places and random selection of monuments and structures due to various factors. The defects in selecting bad quality stone and joint sealing work must have been due to neglect at the execution level, the committee observed.

The ASI, which was accorded the task of protecting the complex in 1974-75, has taken up a detailed survey work of 103 shrines inside the main temple, which is spread over 10 acres.

In most of the temples, including that of Goddess Laxmi, Goddess Vimala, Lord Surya Narayan and others, the technical committee has suggested that there is need for de-plastering, water tightening, joint sealing and replacement of stones.

In many cases, the Archaeological Survey of India has noticed in various shrines peeling of plaster, weak and dead plaster, cracks on plastered surfaces of the pillars and broken floors. The iron beam used in the temple has also become weak coming in touch with the saline wind blowing from the sea.