Dilapidated road, bridges lead to temple

Bridge in bad shape connected with dilapidated road leading towards Purmandal shrine (left) and ancient inns turned ruins (right).
Bridge in bad shape connected with dilapidated road leading towards Purmandal shrine (left) and ancient inns turned ruins (right).

Centuries old shrine of Purmandal badly neglected

Sanjeev K. Sharma
Purmandal, Sept 22: While those at the helm remain eloquent on developments, situation on ground at the most revered and world famed shrine of Purmandal has a different tale to tell as the ancient temples have not been even whitewashed for the last about four years while a dusty un-blacktopped bus stand is there to facilitate pilgrims and words really fail to express the poor state of affairs of the road stretch linking the bridge, in worse condition, at the bus stand with the main entrance of the shrine.
Moreover, the shrine complex, right from the stairs at its entrance to the sanctum sanctorum has decades old flooring which has turned dull with time and tile or marble work is nowhere in the shrine complex.
Apart from all this, there are number of inns, in the vicinity of the centuries old shrine of Shiva, with many from the times of monarchy in J&K, and all these have turned ruins which openly expose poorest of the poor maintenance and lack of interest, from then to now, in maintaining the infrastructure of use by the visiting pilgrims.
However, locals of the area expressed resentment over the negligence of the place with which sentiments of many people are attached and they raise fingers of accusation on Dharamarth Trust J&K (DTJK), elected public representatives, Surinsar Mansar Development Authority (SMDA) and district administration Samba.
“Absence of proper road up to the shrine entrance created hindrances for the visiting pilgrims,” Jawahar Lal Baru, 75, a local elder said adding that the proposed road is not properly aligned while the foot bridge made over the holy rivulet Devak is too having many shortcomings.
He further said that the concerned authorities should take pain to develop the place owing to its importance in Hindu religion as many people perform the last rites of their dear ones at this place as doing so is believed to fetch salvation.
Baldev Raj, 65, an eatery owner at Bus Stand Purmandal said none of the Governments so far has made efforts to bring the shrine on tourism or pilgrimage map of J&K.
“At Railway Station Jammu, Bus Stand Jammu and other such places you can find posters of Vaishno Devi shrine and other pilgrimage and tourist places but nowhere authorities have installed the posters of Purmandal shrines,” he said adding that big hoardings of Purmandal shrines should be installed on National Highway at Bari Brahmana and Kunjwani so that the pilgrims may know about this place of pilgrimage.
Dinesh Goswami-a shopkeeper, 35, near the shrine said, they left the land for the construction of road up to the shrine but over a year has passed and the road is nowhere in sight.
Many more locals expressed anguish over the mismanagement due to which ancient inns have turned ruins. They also talked about lack of facilities at the place and said that proper cleanliness, sanitation, lanes & drains, blacktopped road from bus stand to the shrine with properly constructed bridges and other necessary facilities required for pilgrimage places should immediately be made in the area to facilitate the visiting pilgrims at Purmandal.
Meanwhile, the elected representative from the area claimed that “all is well” at the pilgrimage place and further shocked by saying that he regularly visits the shrine to check things.
“Work on the road up to the shrine will be completed soon and cleanliness of the area is the responsibility of SMDA which has assigned the work to a contractor under whom cleanliness is going on in full swing,” claimed BJP’s Avtar Singh, District Development Council (DDC)-a rural local body, member of Purmandal Territorial Constituency.
When his claim was contested, he said there can be lapses but overall it is a clean place.
“Last year there was no tendering for cleanliness work due to COVID-19 pandemic but this year after the month of March tendering has been done and the cleanliness contractor is doing a good job,” he further claimed.
However, locals of the area said though the DDC member visits the shrine once or twice a week but he restricts meeting with his favoured persons and party workers only and hesitates to talk on development of the pilgrimage place.
When contacted Chief Executive Officer (CEO) SMDA, Gurvinder Singh said that he will personally look into why the cleanliness has not been properly done in the vicinity of the shrine.
Making startling revelations president DTJK, Arun Gandotra said, he assumed the office of the president of the Trust on February 1, 2021 and during his visit at the shrine of Purmandal he was not allowed by the Employees Union of Trust and others at the shrine to open donation boxes.
“After that I wrote to DC Samba who then constituted a committee for proper management of the shrine and only then the donation boxes were opened,” he further informed.
Gandotra also claimed that he was attacked at Purmandal by the security guard of the shrine after which he lodged an FIR and also wrote to J&K DGP.
“I am determined to change the state of affairs at the shrine within a year,” he said.
When contacted, DC Samba, Anuradha Gupta said that work on the road was stopped only due to the rainy season but it will resume soon.
For other works, she said: “It is under a Rs. 10-11 crore project of Tourism Department for which detailed project report has been submitted and whenever the approval is cleared, the work will start.”
The DC also informed that there are many works to do at the shrine and its adjoining areas which the district administration is taking up one by one.
On cleanliness, she said that after tendering the work was allotted to a contractor with a clause that if locals of the area are satisfied with cleanliness then only payment will be released to the contractor.
“We will see if the contractor is not working properly,” she maintained adding that locals of the area should also take care of cleanliness in the area and should not spread litter.
“From Government side we are doing all what we can do but still if there are some shortcomings, we will definitely look into that,” DC Samba maintained.
She also informed that there were many in-fights at the temple which she put to an end by constituting a management committee there which is headed by the DC Samba herself.
“The committee held a meeting and soon we will conduct another meeting to review the status of works decided in earlier meeting,” she further said.
“It is a beginning and it will take time to set things in proper system as there were many controversies and problems earlier,” the DC said adding: “Now all the stakeholders have come together to put things in proper system and all desire good things to happen at the shrine.”
“We as district administration are committed to do what will be best suitable at the pilgrimage place but it will be done together by taking all the stakeholders on board as it was a problem (apathy suffered by the shrine) of years,” the DC Samba asserted.
Director Tourism Vivekanand Rai, when contacted said that he was out of station and will talk on the subject later but claimed that some tendering for certain works at Purmandal has been done.
However, Deputy Director Tourism, Suresh Khajuria said that administrative approval has been received for some works at Purmandal and soon a walkway will be made near the shrine adjoining the shops there and benches will be placed there for visiting pilgrims to sit and high mast lights will also be installed.
“A retaining wall will be erected near the temple to avoid erosion,” he maintained adding tendering for the wall, walkway and lights has been done and allotment of work will be done in few days.