April 3, 2009 9:10:20 am
Mahatma Gandhi is revered all over the country,but people at a sleepy little village off Sambalpur town in Orissa remember him in a very special way – by worshipping his idol in a temple.
The temple at Bhatra village attracts people of all religions and castes who offer their obeisance to the idol of Gandhiji sitting under the Tricolour.
Pramod Kumar,president of the Gandhi temple development committee,said the temple symbolises communal amity among the people in western Orissa.
”People of all faiths from different parts of Orissa,Chhatisgarh and Jharkhand come to Gandhi temple which promotes peace and communal harmony,” he said.
The temple’s head priest,Kalia Bagh,a dalit,said followers of Gandhi read out the teachings and writings of Gandhiji after arati in the morning and evening.
The temple was the brain-child,Abhimanyu Kumar,an ex-mla.
Tracing the origin of the temple,85-year-old Kumar recalled,”We were not allowed entry into temples at the village and elsewhere condemned as we are as untouchables. So in 1971 after I became an MLA the idea of construction of a temple dedicated to the man who abolished untouchability struck me.”
The foundation stone of the Gandhi temple was laid on March 23,1971 and the local artist Trupti Dasgupta,a reputed drawing teacher of the Chandra Sekher Behra Zilla high school,designed the temple.
The bronze statue of Gandhi was sculpted by students of the Khalikote Art College in Ganjam district,Kumar said expressing his gratitude to the then revenue minister of Orissa,Brajamohan Mohanty,for granting Rs 5000 towards meeting the cost of the statue.
The local villagers not only offered money,but also lent a hand in the construction and the temple was inaugurated by the then chief minister of Orissa,Nandini Satpathy,with much fanfare on April 11,1974.
On the Gandhi Jayanti day,Martyrs day,Republic day and Independence day a large number of followers throng the temple to celebrate. Dalit youths after offering prayers take a vow to “shun violence and liquor”.
”We get peace when we perform prayer in the Gandhi temple chanting Hare-Rama-Hare-Krishna,” said Jitendra Raiguru,a local resident.
With no financial support from either government or any organisation,the management occasionally faces problems in running the temple,but the 150-odd dalit families of the village see to it that the lamp does not go off.
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