Sambalpur, Oct 02: For the last more than 47 years, the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi is being worshipped as God at the Gandhi Mandir in Bhatra of Sambalpur city. The unusual temple reminds people of the ideals of the ‘Apostle of Peace’ who visit it.
Built and initiated by the then dalit MLA of Rairakhol Assembly constituency, Abhimanyu Kumar in early 70’s, the foundation stone of the temple was laid by the then Revenue Divisional Commissioner (Northern Division), Rabindranath Mohanty, on March 23,1971. While the interior was designed by a local artist Truptabhusan Dasgupta, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi was sculpted by artists of Khallikote Art College in Ganjam and it took around three years before it was inaugurated by the then Chief Minister of Odisha Nandini Satpathy on April 11,1974.
The temple’s entrance opens to the south-east and the traditional Garuda Stambha has been replaced by Ashok Stambha in the temple. The temple structure is built on an area of 10.97 metres x 6.70 metres and its height is 11.88 metres. The entrance to the temple is an ornamented arc-way and there is a statue of Bharatmata holding a tricolour (national flag) with the map of India in the backdrop at the top of the arc structure. The statue is having lions and peacocks at its both sides, representing national animal and national bird. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple has a bronze statue of Mahatma in a squatting position (Siddhasan) and the height of the statue is 1.07 metre.
And comeGandhi Jayanti, Republic Day and Independence Day, locals and government officials flock the place to pay tribute and obeisance to the Father of the Nation. Besides, these special occasions, regular rituals and worship of Mahatma Gandhi is also held twice a day and a dalit from the locality perform the puja. But not bhajan and slokas, ‘Ramdhun’ is chanted by those present during the puja. Fruits are offered as Prasad during the pujas and many in the village embark on their duties by having Prasad in the morning.
Pramod Ranjan Kumar, son of Abhimanyu Kumar and former president of Gandhi Mandir Development Committee, said his father decided to build the temple when he became MLA for the first time in 1971. They have been worshiping Gandhiji as God in the temple since 1974, he added.