Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Mar 12:
The state of the Alam Chandi shrine and Pathar Pokhari (pond) in Odisha’s pilgrim town of Puri gives a fair idea of the state of preparedness for the once-in-a-generation Nabakalebara festival in this pilgrim town of Odisha in July this year.
Located in the Kumbharapara area near the Atharanala Bridge in Puri, both these places of religious significance figure prominently in the rituals connected with the Nabakalebara. But a reality check of these two sites reveals a complete absence of a sense of urgency on the part of those who are in charge of the renovation of structures associated with the grand festival that is taking place after 19 long years.
And this is the state of affairs when no less than nine senior IAS officers have been pressed into service for hands-on monitoring of the progress of infrastructural work. The endless ‘review’ meetings they have been holding virtually on a daily basis do not seem to have had much of an impact at the ground level.
During the Banajaga Yatra chapter of the Nabakalebara saga, Daitapatis halt here for a night on their return with Darubrahmas (sacred neem logs) collected from different places for the making of idols of the deities. They place the sagadis (carts carrying the logs) in front of the Alam Chandi temple before entering Puri in a procession.
During their stay here, the Daitapatis in the Banajaga team use Pathar Pokhari for their bath and other rituals etc.
Both the shrine of Alam Chandi and the Pathar Pokhari (pond) in front of it become the centre of attraction for devotees who gather here in large numbers to have a glimpse of the sacred logs.
Since this pond is connected with the Banajaga Yatra team, it has been included in the infrastructure development scheme for the Nabakalebara Yatra prepared by the state government.
The state government had held a tender bidding process for renovation of this pond six months back. An expenditure outlay of Rs 27 lakh has been earmarked for the renovation of this pond.
A Kolkata based firm had shown interest to undertake the renovation of the pond. However, the firm could not rely on the local administration and withdrew from the project leaving the field open for local contractors to step in.
Drying up of the pond as a prelude to undertaking renovation work being carried out by a local contractor is still underway two and a half months after it started, said locals.
Following pressure from the administration, the pond was cleared of weeds and hyacinths a few days back while creepers and weeds that had grown on the pond’s boundary walls were removed on Wednesday.
However, actual renovation work on the pond is yet to begin as steps to the pond are buried in the mud with its boundary wall broken at many places.
In one corner of the pond, there is a plaque mentioning the name of local MLA Maheswar Mohanty as the chairman of the Nabakalebara Infrastructure Supervision Committee (NISC). But one wonders if the NISC chairman has ever bothered to see how work is going at the place.