The Puri administration is tearing down many structures, including ancient Mathas, within 75-metre distance of the Jagannath temple walls in the name of development. Some of these Hindu religious institutions date back to hundreds of years. One of them is the 900 year old Emmar Matha, established by none other than Sri Ramanujacharya himself.
Heads of these Mathas as well as archaeologists, historians, and other experts have opposed this move by the government. These Mathas have a huge religious significance for practicing Hindus. Some of them house rare murals, manuscripts, sculptures and other historical artifacts. If this was any other country, these temples would have been declared as heritage monuments, and been carefully preserved and maintained. Would such apathetic treatment ever be meted out to an old mosque or a church?
The biggest tragedy here is that there is not even a murmur by local Hindus or Hindu organisations. There were 2 petitions filed in the Supreme Court to stay the demolition, one from a Chennai resident, and another by the Intercontinental Lawyers’ Association. However, both were dismissed by the SC. The next hearing will happen on September 17th.
In the meantime, the century old Languli Matha of the Naga cult was torn down by the administration citing safety reasons. Odisha CM is promising to “rehabilitate” the Mathas. This is highly irregular and uncalled for. Old, heritage structures should be retrofitted and rebuilt by authorities, not torn down! Deities are sanctified in a temple or religious place by doing prana pratishtha. They can not be moved at will after being sanctified. Rehabilitation is a dangerous idea here, as this is not just loss of a building structure, this is loss of cultural heritage. The people who are a part of the Mathas cannot simply be “rehabilitated” to work on other jobs. They carry knowledge of the place and the functioning of a Hindu monastery. That lineage gets destroyed by destroying ancient monasteries.
Next to be demolished is the 900 year old Emmar Matha, which was postponed due to the silent protest by the Mahant Rajgopal Ramanuj Das. As of the date of writing this article, its historical gate and Raghunandan library which housed ancient manuscripts had already been razed to the ground.
This utter apathy and disinterest in preserving the cultural and architectural heritage of Hindus is alarming. Numerous mosques, which were built by demolishing Hindu temples, gather mold, but are never demolished by authorities. But a Hindu monastery is now being demolished, without a whimper from anyone.