Adv.Vinod Iyer Bharatheeya Vichara Kendram, Guruvayur Sthaneeya Samithi
PRASAD – A Multi-Crore Dream For Guruvayur
The most ambitious development project in the history of Guruvayur temple and the town is falling apart even before it has begun. Under the Union Tourism Ministry’s Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive (PRASAD), a multi-crore budget was allocated in 2016 for the development of the Guruvayur Temple and it’s surroundings. The approved project has a visionary goal of revamping the temple and town facilities and infrastructure to make Guruvayur a world-class religious and tourist destination. Priority areas in the plan include development of roads, improved drinking water supply, rain water harvesting, toilet facilities, sewage systems, rest rooms, watchtower, open-air theatres, rain shelters, primary health centres and maximum security measures for the temple.
With absolute vision, systemic developmental projects and sustained efforts without vested political interests, PRASAD project will be a monumental success. Even though Devaswom had a share of ill-conceived projects, a participation of a non-partisan governing entity will solve the crisis. The project needs incoherent planning, public accountability and sustained competence. At this juncture, a Liaison Officer deputed by the Central Government would also be a great aid. Below are a few strategic recommendations for their consideration.
Recommendations for the Temple
Based on the famous “Krishnanunni Commission”, following a High Court order, the Devaswom took steps to acquire 100 metres of land surrounding the temple. This was a first step towards increasing temple security. In 2011, the Central Ministry of Home Affairs issued a detailed report of the threat to the temple and outlined the security measures the State Government needed to take immediately. Yet several years after the original High Court directive, land acquisition plan still remains abandoned. It needs to be restarted and the acquisition completed without delay.
On the border of the 100 meter area, construct multi-storey buildings with retail spaces on the ground floor facing both sides. Provide replacement shops to shop owners and to businesses that were on lease who were uprooted because of the acquisition. The first-floor should be designed as apartments that should be allotted to people who had to relocate because of the acquisition. Remaining flats should be provided to temple staff who are normally on standby duty. All rooms facing the temple should be designated for temple purposes such as “Prasada Oottu” Hall, Counters for sandals, bags and valuables, queue complex, “Vazhipadu Counters,” and Main security centre. Solar panels should be installed on all roof tops and rain water harvesting systems must be mandatory for all buildings. As a second layer of security, police watch towers should be established on top of the building.
The buildings should effectively surround the temple like a fort wall and have only four entrances. They should be able to accommodate entry of heavy vehicles when necessary. No separate entrances should be provided and no private vehicles should be allowed inside. In the four entrances provided, there should be the following: two rooms on either side of the pavement for security personnel—one for the temple security and the other for the police. The temple security room should have a security officer and a multi-lingual information officer. Next to those, there should be an emergency medical aid room manned by qualified personnel, supported by an ancillary ambulance service. Adjoining that should be a room providing clean drinking water, and then a modern restroom, followed by coffee shops run by Government institutions such as KTDC or Coffee Board on either side of the pavement. Private parties shall not be allowed to run hotels or coffee shops inside the complex. The top floors should be turned into economical board and lodge facility for devotees.
Recommendations for the town
If we are to achieve the PRASAD promise for Guruvayur Temple and the Town, infrastructure and sustainable developmental needs to be address. First, we need to develop both rail and road transportation to and from Guruvayur. Upgrade roads leading into Guruvayur, the Guruvayur Bus Terminus, and the Guruvayur railway station. Start low-floor air conditioned buses on a daily basis to prominent religious destinations such as Kodungallur, Vadakkunnathan, Kadampuzha and Thirumandamkunnu. It is essential that we establish a double line rail path from Thrissur to Thirunavaya/Kuttipuram/Tirur through Guruvayur. Of crucial importance is an overbridge for the east nada railway gate. Currently it closes over 30 times a day seriously disrupting traffic on that road.
To facilitate tourism and offer an alternate travel mode, the Canoli canal can be developed from Ponnani Harbour to Chettuva Backwaters and from Chettuva Backwaters to Puzhakkal through Enamavu. For drinking water problems and mangroves protection, a mangrove theme park can be set up in Chakkamkandam and also a water desalination unit can be established in Chakkamkandam to provide drinking water to Guruvayur. Devaswom’s property in Dwaraka can be an ideal place to establish another water desalination plant to provide drinking water to the nearby residents. Sewage plants, Incinerators and Bio-gas plants should be installed at strategic locations. Government owned islands can be taken to keep sewage plants.
The temples within a 1km radius of the Guruvayur temple – Perunthatta, Thiruvenkidom, Parthasarathi, Mammiyur, Chettialakkal, Narayanankulangara, Nenmini, Thamarayur and Panthayil – should be refurbished. Cattle farms in Vengad and Kaveed and Punnathur Kotta Elephant sanctuary should be redeveloped. Vengad Gokulam is around 95 acres in area and would provide a safe haven to relocate old elephants and the problematic ones.
Securing a temple from the external threats and building a future-ready world-class town are not easy tasks. And that is the very reason why the dreams and hopes of the people of Guruvayur and of pilgrims everywhere should be rest in the hands of far-sighted, ambitious and non-corrupt entities. Project PRASAD is the brilliant future of Guruvayur. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build something magnificent and historical. We need an honest, visionary, selfless intervention from the Central and State Government to make that promise real for us. The establishment owes us that much.