On November 24, 2022, King Puri and descendant of the former royal kingdom of Utkal, Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb, laid the groundwork for the ambitious project in the presence of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. It provides for embellishment works within a radius of 75 meters from the 12th century sanctuary in addition to the development of facilities for the faithful. The government aims to complete the Rs 800 crore project by May next year.
“We discovered that giant earthmoving machines and excavators were being used to dig near the temple. Apprehending a threat to the structural security of the temple, I immediately wrote to the District Collector (Puri) as well as the Odisha Bridge and Construction Corporation Limited (OBCC) and requested their responses to the purpose of the digging activities massive,” Arun Malik, ASI’s chief archaeologist, told TOI.
The ASI office in Bhubaneswar has drawn the attention of its Managing Director, V Vidyavathi, to the matter. Vidyavathi, who traveled to Puri on February 21 to brief the situation on the ground, is also said to have expressed concern over the matter.
“Our DG made some observations and sent them to the state government to ensure compliance with the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act 2010 (AMASR),” Malik said. However, he did not disclose Vidyavathi’s observations and suggestions to the government.
Although AMASR prohibits new construction within 100 meters of a temple, the National Monuments Authority (NMA) has so far authorized the state government to construct a changing room, shelter pavilion, three toilets, an electrical room and a sidewalk inside the prohibited zone of 75 meters.
“We have obtained the mandatory no-objection certificate from the NMA. We will be working in close coordination with ASI to implement the project, which aims to provide better facilities for devotees,” said Samarth Verma, the Puri District Collector.