Puri – the abode of Lord Jagannath is one of the most revered and holiest places since ages. Built by the Ganga dynasty rulers, the Jagannath Temple is the most important pilgrimage destination for millions of people from around the world. It has been an important center for religious and cultural activities in the country with worldwide significance. With the passing of time, the geographical and demographic composition of the holy city of Puri has changed. From a small town with a few thousand population to an urban neighborhood, Puri has witnessed tremendous changes in the last century. The world famous Ratha Yatra of Lord Jagannath attracts millions of people from around the world. The pristine beaches of Puri are the favorite destinations for foreign tourists.
Keeping in mind the changes taken place and the need to make the holy city more reachable and beautiful, the Government of Odisha under the leadership of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has taken up an ambitious project to transform the holy city into a World Heritage City. An important part of the transformation plan is the Srimandir Heritage Corridor Project or the Puri Srimandir Parikrama Project. Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb is going to lay the foundation stone for the Project today. This development project is the most important and major development in Puri in the last few centuries.
Being undertaken at an estimated cost of around Rs 800 crore in the first phase, the Heritage Corridor Project entails the development of the 75 meters corridor around the Jagannath Temple with amenities and infrastructure. The various components of the Heritage Corridor include a modern Shree Jagannath Temple Administration building redevelopment, a 600-capacity Srimandir reception centre, Shree Jagannath cultural centre that would include the Raghunandan library, integrated command, and control centre, Badadanda heritage landscape, Srimandir amenities improvement and many more.
According to the plan, the heritage corridor would be divided into nine zones. A seven meter green buffer zone will be created adjacent to the majestic Meghanad Prachir followed by a 10 meter Antar Parikrama. The Parikrama will be for ceremonial procession of the deities. An eight meter corridor called outer pradikshyan for devotees and a 10 meter public conveyance zone having restrooms, drinking water fountain, information-cum-donation kiosks and shelter pavilions will be developed.
The heritage Corridor will have a five meter service lane for maintenance of the corridor, 4.5 meter dedicated shuttle-cum-emergency lane, 7.5 meter mixed traffic lane to aid movement of vehicles around the corridor and seven meter wide shaded footpath. The atithi Abhyartana Gruha would have a capacity to seat 6,000 devotees and cloakroom facility for 4,000 families. All the matthas around the temple are being developed in Kalingan style architecture.
The Heritage Corridor Projects is going to further enhance the glory of the pilgrim city. The holy city will see a lot of changes in terms of infrastructure and facilities and there will not be any hampering of the age old and unique temple traditions. All concerns have been taken care of regarding the rituals and the traditions of the temple in consultations with the servitors. The development plan is to make the city of Puri one of the world’s greatest Heritage places.
Improving the amenities at the temple has been necessitated by a manifold increase in the number of people in the last few decades. Also, the least available infrastructure in terms of open space and pilgrim amenities which were encroached upon in the last few centuries which needed to be freed. From the security point of view also there was a necessity to create an open space around the important temple. The efforts of the state government to transform the Sri Jagannath Temple are in the right direction and surely lead to make Puri one of the best heritage cities of the world.
The Sri Jagannath Temple built by the Ganga dynasty rulers and the subsequent improvements to the temple infrastructure by the Gajapati dynasty and other rulers have made the temple one of the best pilgrimage centers in India. There were significant efforts by various kings from time to time for the betterment of the temple. The temple has been the epicenter of cultural and religious activities of Odisha for most of the time till date.
Today, the temple, with its glorious past and present significance needed a transformation. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s dream to transform the temple into a world heritage site has a valid reason and the efforts being undertaken are in the right direction. Though there were infrastructural developments inside the temple premises in the past, there have been few efforts in the past to decongest the peripheral areas of the temple. The narrow lanes adjoining the temple needed to be widened and more amenities needed to be put in place for the growing number of pilgrims. The 75 meter corridor being created by the administration around the temple will facilitate security to the temple and make available space for the various amenities for the visitors. An important aspect of the transformation process is that people who were settled for decades around the Jagannath Temple have given up the land required for the security corridor on their own will and have become a part of the development process. This can be said as an important achievement for the government to negotiate with them for this.
As part of the development of Puri into a World Heritage City, the Government of Odisha is undertaking a holistic multipronged approach. Some of the important achievements in this regard are Puri has become a complete drink from tap city. Each and every household has been provided with clean drinking water tap. Swarga Dwara has been redeveloped with modern facilities. The Puri beach has been transformed into a Blue Flag Beach. The process for an international green field airport is under advanced stages of getting clearance. Pilgrim amenities around Badadanda are being developed with modern facilities.
Many religious preachers have come to Puri and given their valuable contribution to the development of the temple. Jagatguru Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Tulasi Das and Sri Chaitanya are a few among them who have influenced the temple rituals and enriched the sanctity of the place. The present transformation being carried out can also be compared with those efforts. For long, the redevelopment was overdue and the government efforts today can be said to be at the right time.
The district administration of Puri has already started putting into place what the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik dreamt of transforming the city. The swift action by the administration and a committed supervision by Secretary to CM (5T) V K Pandian are transforming the city and are part of the epoch making effort in Puri. The development plan, which has already started showing on the ground, will be recorded in the history as one of the finest and biggest transformations of the holy place.