The marauding sea that had been eroding the coastline in Kendrapara for decades, devouring one village after another, recently razed the centuries-old Panchuvarahi temple to ground, dashing hopes of locals, who would often offer prayers there seeking respite from the scourge of Mother Nature.
According to officials, the state government had relocated more than 571 vulnerable families to a rehabilitation colony at Bagapatia, located about 10 kilometres from the sea coast in 2018.
“It was the first such rehabilitation and resettlement initiative in the state for people displaced by sea erosion,” the officials said.
Away from their hometown, much of which has been eaten up by the sea, some of its former residents, however, visited Satabhaya village from time to time to pay obeisance at the Panchuvarahi temple, the deity of which has also been relocated to the rehabilitation colony.
“Locals would perceive the shrine as the last visible sign of human existence in Satabhaya village,” said Basant Sahani, one of its former residents.
“With that gone, our last hopes that the sea may stop its advance have also dashed,” he rued.
An official of Rajnagar tehsil in the district said that people in Satabhaya and Kanhupur villages had been wanting to shift to a safer place, unlike some neighbouring hamlets, where locals were sceptical about moving to a new area.
“The government, after consultations with locals, set up the rehabilitation colony in Bagapatia,” he stated.
Shivendra Narayan Bhanjadeo, the scion of an erstwhile royal family of Rajkanika and the trustee of the temple, said, “Satabhaya has lost its identity with the caving-in of the temple.”
Bhanjadeo also said that the distance between the sea and the temple was around three kilometres before three decades ago. “For all practical purposes, Satabhaya has now lost its geographical identity,” he added.