Parveen Arora in Karnal
Mythology inspires ambitions, a larger-than-life portrayal of past events in order to add awe, plus a few nickels to the government kitty by way of tourism. Take a look at the latest in the city: Karna of the Mahabharata fame has got an 18-ft statue made with six quintals of iron and 11 quintals of silicon fibre. The warrior-archer, the son of Kunti and the Sun, was famous for loyalty and giving alms. He stands at the centre of a pond surrounded with colourful LED lights and musical fountains. The ancient Karna Taal park, named after the king, is today fully developed after years of neglect.
The state government counts on the popular belief that it is the same pond where Kunti’s son offered prayers to the Sun and donated gold every morning after praying in the temple of Goddess Kali. The place’s turnaround — worth Rs 6 crore — is thanks to a joint venture of the Karnal Municipal Corporation (KMC) and the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA).
Officials say the water body, around 4-ft deep, is spread across 2,280 sq m. A 14-ft-wide footpath surrounds the Taal. The facilities include a 6-ft-wide jogging track, an open-air gym, a restaurant, an open cafeteria, craft shops, a literature centre, parking, and sand pits for children.
The project was a part of the election promises of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. The work started after the CM laid the foundation stone for the renovation of the Taal on June 21, 2015. He inaugurated it on December 14, 2016, but felt something was missing and directed the authorities to install musical fountains with LED lights around the King’s statue. The KMC-installed musical fountains with 182 LED lights cost around Rs 1 crore. “The CM will soon inaugurate the new ornamentation,” said Priyanka Soni, KMC commissioner.
“The CM has decided to develop the site as an international tourist spot,” says Renu Bala Gupta, mayor. “We have completed the work with the help of the civic body. We have also built other facilities,” says YM Mehra, SE, HUDA.
Located in the heart of the city, the site was a park in the old city and was considered a city landmark. After years of neglect, the park became a refuge for petty criminals. The plaque installed inside the park was removed from the structure where the foundation stone was installed, says Sanjeev Arora, a shopkeeper.
“Initially, a pillar marking the place where Karna offered alms was installed at the entrance of the Taal during the Bansi Lal government,” says Raj Kumar Girdhar, a resident of Sadar Bazar. Old-timers recall the majestic background of this Taal. Naveen Kharbanda, another resident of Sadar Bazar, says Karna, who had fought on the side of the Kauravas, had stationed his army at the place. It is believed that there was a natural water body at the site, surrounded by temples.
“The city has borrowed its name from King Karna. It is the duty of all residents to maintain the beauty, culture and heritage of the Taal,” says Umeet Kalra, a teacher.
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