Bhubaneswar, January 6 (Localwire): The recent decision of the Puri municipal administration to demolish the ancestral house of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore located on Chakratirtha Road at Puri has evoked sharp reactions from across the state.
The Patherpuri house, which was built by the Nobel Laureate, is an iconic building, more than 100 years old, and an invaluable heritage structure.
The place was home to the famous poet who used to love Puri and where he had composed some of his famous literary works, including his magnum opus Gitanjali.
“A bust of the bard is installed at the far end of the building. A large number of documents and articles penned by Tagore are still preserved at the building. Some of these documents have been lost due to decay and lack of proper maintenance, but a few invaluable artifacts still remain,” a statement issued by heritage expert and historian Anil Dhir stated.
According to sources, a portion of the building was being used as a hostel for students of an adjoining College.
However, the asbestos roof of the building was blown away during cyclone Fani a few months ago, and since then it has been an abandoned structure.
According to the Puri sub-collector Bharat Charan Sahu, the building is in ruins and there is no other option but to demolish it.
However, it is not known whether the district administration has given a thought to restore the building keeping its heritage value in mind.
Most likely the state Public Works Department has declared the building unsafe without examining the possibility of proper conservation and restoration, the statement said.
According to former Odisha DGP and INTACH Odisha convener Amiya Bhusan Tripathy, certifying a building unsafe is a routine thing for the PWD and the department lacks qualified persons who can do proper restoration and conservation work.
He has written to the administration to stop the plans for razing down the building and instead take measures for the proper restoration and conservation.
Tripathy has also given an assurance that Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage could take up the project and ensure that the structure gets a new lease of life.
According to Dhir, the Odisha PWD had declared many buildings unsafe and through the efforts of INTACH, these were repaired with proper conservation techniques and stand proudly today.
“The Kanika Library and Assembly Hall at the iconic Ravenshaw University, the Cuttack Circuit House, and the old Board of Revenue Building too were at some time declared as unsafe, but they were all restored. In fact in Katak, the very same PWD which had declared the structures unsafe did the restoration under proper guidance,” he stated.
The historian also pointed out that while the Jobra Workshop was worked upon by INTACH and a grand Maritime Museum stands in place today, in Puri too, the house of Janaki Nath Bose, father of Netaji Subash Chand Bose was handed over to INTACH in 2015 and the building stands in one piece after proper conservation.
“In Sambalpur, the house of the Assamese Poet Laxminath Bezbaruah, which was marked for demolition is currently in the process of conservation by INTACH. The Rani Bhakri and the Old Town Hall of the city, which were in ruins, are also in the final stages of restoration,” the press note stated.
According to Samant Chandrasekhar Junior College vice-principal Sankarshan Dash, they have been intimated by the civic body regarding the demolition.
“Since the building is synonymous with the legendary Rabindranath Tagore, we have requested the department through a letter to construct a building that can be made into a Tagore Museum to preserve the documents and artifacts in Patherpuri,” he said.