Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik recently introduced a significant heritage corridor project around the Jagannath Temple in Puri. This move is seen as a response to the BJP’s emphasis on Hindutva ahead of upcoming elections. The Chief Minister participated in the unveiling ceremony after a three-day ritual event led by Puri’s king, Dibyasingha Dev.
In the next two weeks, the government plans to host around 10,000 villagers daily at the temple, promoting awareness of Jagannath culture. A budget of ₹177 crore has been allocated for these activities. This heritage corridor initiative is one of two major temple projects, with the other being the ₹200 crore renovation of the Maa Samalai Temple in Sambalpur, scheduled for inauguration on January 27.
These initiatives coincide with the consecration of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, a cause long championed by the BJP. Analysts suggest that the dedication ceremony for the Shree Mandir Parikrama Prakalpa (SMPP) lived up to expectations created by the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government.
Similar to the Ram Temple construction in Ayodhya, arpan rathas were carried across Odisha to collect contributions, including rice and betel nuts, from villagers. A substantial advertising campaign was also executed to promote the project.
The heritage corridor allows devotees to circumambulate the 12th-century shrine, featuring amenities like restrooms and police kiosks. The SMPP project, based on recommendations from the Justice B P Das Commission, aimed to create a buffer zone around the temple to safeguard its sanctity.
While some opposition parties accuse the Chief Minister of leveraging temple devotion for political gains, others acknowledge the strategic move. With the BJP gaining ground in Odisha, especially among the Hindu majority, Patnaik’s initiatives aim to retain political influence and counter the BJP’s narrative of Hindu resurgence. The BJD government’s focus on temple development has positioned it as a primary player, not just a follower, in championing Hindu causes in the state.