Kamal Nath said a committee comprising officials from MP and Sri Lanka and members of Mahabodhi Society will soon be formed for the temple. (File)
The Congress government in Madhya Pradesh on Monday announced that a grand temple of Sita will be built in Sri Lanka at a place where she is believed to have withstood agnipariksha — trial by fire — near what is present-day Nuwara Eliya, in central highlands of the island-nation.
The idea was conceived by the previous BJP government under Shivraj Singh Chouhan nearly a decade ago but the project did not take off.
Chouhan had claimed to have laid the foundation stone for the proposed temple during his visit to Lanka. The then BJP government had claimed that it had received all mandatory clearances.
After the change of guard in December 2019, the Congress government claimed it did not find any file related to the proposed temple. A delegation led by Law and Religious Affairs Minister P C Sharma recently visited Sri Lanka and met the country’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath on Monday formally cleared the proposal. He said a committee of officials from the state and Sri Lanka, and members of Mahabodhi Society, will soon be formed to monitor the construction of the temple in a time-bound manner.
Nath said money will be allocated in the current financial year.
He also said that land will be earmarked for building a Boudh Museum, a training and a study centre for disciples of Buddhism at Sanchi in the state. He said many Japanese companies and organisations have offered monetary help for various construction activities in Sanchi, a major attraction for Buddhists.
Back in 2010, Chouhan had proposed the idea of building a grand temple at Divurumpola near Nuwara Eliya. In 2013, during then Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to Sanchi, he again expressed his government’s willingness to fund the temple’s construction.
In 2016, Chouhan said Rs 1 crore had been allotted and necessary permissions had been taken from the Centre and the Sri Lankan government.
The then BJP government had said that a Bangalore-based firm had prepared a design and the construction of the proposed temple was likely to cost between Rs 12 crore and Rs 14 crore. The government later claimed the project ran into hurdles following objections from local Buddhist organisations. The temple is located inside a Buddhist monastery.
Nath’s Congress government has continued the BJP government’s scheme to subsidise pilgrimage to Sita temple and Ashok Vatika (where Sita is believed to have been kept in captivity) and Cambodia (Angkor Vat) and Pakistan (Nankana Sahib and Hinglaj mata temple), besides other shrines in the country.