The Jagannath Temple’s arch stone (Kalas), a pot-shaped concrete structure on which Nilachakra (wheel) rests, is in dire need of urgent repair, a team of experts from the temple technical committee said on Saturday. Constituted by the state government to recommend measures for preservation and maintenance of the iconic temple, the team scaled the 214-feet pinnacle of the shrine nearly two months after a 1kg chunk of concrete plaster fell off the Kalas and landed on temple priest Debi Prasad Panda’s head in the outer complex of the shrine.
“The lime plaster of the Kalas is crumbling and it has become very weak. We have examined the Kalas and are now planning to discuss the issue with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). We will ask ASI to carry out the much-needed de-plastering and repair works,” Bijay Kumar Rath, a member of the committee, said. ASI officer Jiban Kumar Pattnaik, who is also a member of the committee, said a final decision on the proposed repair work will be taken later. Sources said an ASI team will again examine the shrine’s pinnacle on December 21.
Meanwhile, disgruntled priests blamed ASI for poor maintenance of the 12th century shrine. “ASI, the custodian of the temple, does not seem to have learnt from the previous incidents when stones from the ceiling collapsed in the temple. Most of the subsidiary temples inside the main precinct are in a pathetic condition,” said Rama Dasmohapatra, a priest.
This was not the first incident of this sort. A one-ton stone feel off the ceiling on November 1, 2011, a five-ton slab came crashing down from a structure (Amlabedha) of the temple during heavy rains on June 14, 1990. Two heavy slabs fell into the sanctum sanctorum on August 13, 1992, creating flutter in the state. A 15-kg rock rolled down from the main temple on October 26, 1998 and fell near the Bimla temple in the periphery of the Jagannath temple complex.
Soon after the November 1, 2011 incident, chief minister Naveen Patnaik had drawn the attention of the then Union tourism minister and ASI top brass about the poor upkeep of the famous shrine. Under the banner of Chhatisa Nijog Sevayat Mahasamilani, temple priests also blamed ASI of being inefficient an neglecting the temple.