The pet project of chief minister Naveen Patnaik— Shree Mandira Parikrama Project (SMPP), a massive periphery redevelopment of the famous Jagannath Temple in Puri—is almost complete and likely to be inaugurated next month. It seems to be competing with the preparations for the grand opening of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya in January 2024. Ceremonies in Puri are being planned on a similar scale.
According to one source the Lokarpan Yajna for the project is scheduled to be performed from January 15th to 17th, 2024, with Vedic recitations at the four gates of the temple. Rigveda for the eastern gate, Yajurveda for the southern, Samaveda for the western, and Atharvaveda for the northern gate have been finalized. Uniform painting is underway for prominent structures along the three-kilometer-long Grand Road connecting the Jagannath Temple and Mausima Temple. Vibrant lighting will adorn all temples and subsidiary shrines.
Sources said that the Puri Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) and Puri district administration are leaving no stone unturned to make the inauguration ceremony of the much-awaited Srimandir Parikrama (Heritage Corridor) Project a grand success.
About 30 teams comprising servitors and SJTA officials have left for various parts of the country to distribute invitation cards. Among others the invitation cards will be handed over to religious heads of various shrines across the country.
The Shreemandira Parikrama is a 75-meter corridor around Shree Jagannatha Temple at Puri. It will ensure expansive, unobstructed corridors around the Meghanada Pacheri of the temple for giving an opportunity to devotees and pilgrims to have an excellent visual connect with the 12th century shrine. It will also provide amenities for pilgrims and strengthen the safety and security of the temple and devotees.
Taken up at a cost of ₹1,000 crore, the project includes a seven-metre green buffer zone, 10-metre Antar (inner) Pradakshina – pedestrian-only path round the year. It will be used by the general public for parikrama (circumambulation) of the temple. The eight-metre outer circumambulation path would be covered by trees on either side. There will be a 10-metre public convenience zone.
The main project includes 36 major projects including development of a security zone around the temple, creation of parking space for vehicles, flyover and Jagannath Ballav Math Pilgrim Center (JBMPC). The JBMPC is a unique infrastructure that will have meditation space (10,000 square metres), pilgrim amenities (5,000 sq. m.), commercial space (8,000 sq. m.) and multi-level car parking for 1,000 vehicles over 35,000 sq. m.
The project also proposes a queue management facility that can handle 6,000 people, along with security checking facility. Efforts are also being made to redevelop ‘matha’ temples within the 75-metre Shree Jagannath Heritage Corridor. These ‘matha’ temples will be redeveloped in the Kalingan style in general and specific ‘matha’ traditions.
Sources said the Shree Mandir Parikrama Project is one component of a massive ₹4,224.22 crore project which seeks to transform Puri into a World Heritage City. The ongoing transformation is being described as a once-in-a-century temple development project with which chief minister Naveen Patnaik seeks to leave a lasting legacy.
The unveiling of the project is considered an important event ahead of 2024 elections. Political observers said the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) would approach the next election riding the euphoria surrounding the project. The ruling party knows that the Jagannath cult has the biggest influence on the minds of the Odias and it is the best formula to garner votes. Nothing can impact the minds of the people of Odisha more than the sanctity of the 12th century temple and things attached with lord Jagannath who is considered to be a living god.