The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) today strongly opposed the entry of people of non-Hindus into the Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri and said it would file a review petition in Supreme Court to reconsider its proposal on this, Odisha VHP top leader said today. The organisation’s state working president Badrinath Patnaik told PTI that Puri Gajapati king Divyasingha Deb and Puri Shankaracharya Nischalananda Saraswati should be consulted before taking any step in the temple.
Presently only Hindus are allowed entry into the 12th century shrine, also known as the Sri Mandir. The VHP leader also did not accept the apex court’s proposal of abolishing the hereditary servitor tradition in the Shree Jagannath temple. Patnaik said, “The state government will be urged to maintain its existing stand to this effect failing which we will file a review petition in a higher bench of the Supreme Court.”
The Supreme Court had directed the Jagannath temple management to consider allowing all visitors, irrespective of their faith to offer prayers to the deity. The top court had also said that allowing every visitor into the temple will be subject to regulatory measures regarding dress code and giving an appropriate declaration. Insisting that the Puri Gajapati king and the Shankaracharya of Govardhan Peeth in Puri should be consulted before taking any step in the temple, he said “How can anyone deny the basic rights of a servitor? The temple records of rights and the Shree Jagannath Temple Act protect the rights of servitors serving at the temple since generations.”
Odisha Law Minister Pratap Jena said the state government is yet to receive the Supreme Court order. On the entry of the non-Hindus into the Jagannath temple, Jena said this is a “proposal” given by the apex court. The state government will take its decision after a unanimous conclusion is arrived at on the issue. We will examine the content of the order after getting a copy of it. The state government will take a decision after the apex court gives the final verdict,” he said. Stating that the state government is keen on reforms in the Jagannath temple, Jena said that if necessary the government will amend the Jagannath Temple Act, 1954.
Senior BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra told a press conference here that stopping the servitors’ hereditary practice is difficult and if done, would create chaos. Earlier, Puri district judge had suggested to the Supreme Court to stop the hereditary services of the Jagannath temple servitors. Stating that the hereditary service of the servitors is clearly mentioned in section 15 clause 1 of Shree Jagannath Temple Act, 1952, he wondered why the advocate general, who was representing the state government at the time of the submission of the report by the Puri district judge, did not oppose the recommendation of the apex court on the matter? Mohapatra said there should be no comparison of Shree Jagannath temple with other temples.
The Puri temple is an unique shrine because the servitors perform at least 120 rituals of the dieties. Urging the Puri Gajapati king to intervene in the matter since he is the first servitor of Lord Jagannath, Mohapatra suggested that he, the Shankaracharya of the Govardhan Peeth, the state chief secretary, law secretary and the advocate general should discuss the matter and take a final decision.