Focus on Temple Reforms

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The Jagannath temple is different from other shrines in the country. Any attempt to tamper its culture and tradition would be counterproductive. The devotees coming to the shrine should have a smooth darshan of the deities, said Shankarachraya to the Supreme Court appointed Amicus Curiae Gopal Subramanium.

While there is a statewide uproar over Puri Jagannath temple administration’s decision not to make public the report on the delay in “Brahma Parivartan” (change of soul) during the Nabakalebara in 2015 there is also a sharp focus on Supreme Court appointed Amicus Curiae Gopal Subramanium’s recent visit to Puri to elicit opinion on reforms in the temple.

The amicus curiae met Puri Shankarachrya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati to elicit his views on reforms in the 12th-century Shree Jagannath temple. He also met religious leaders, government officials and servitors.

Prior to holding a meeting, Subramanium visited the temple and offered prayers to the deities. Later he held discussions with the temple officials. He also met the Puri district judge to solicit his views on the issue.

Earlier the Supreme Court had given 12 proposals for reforms to the temple management including introducing regulatory measures with regard to dress code, abolition of hereditary rights of servitors, prohibition of collection of money by servitors for the annadan atika (earthen pots with cooked food), a ban on the placing of thalis (plates) by the servitors to receive offerings and a provision for separate toilets for male and female devotees and servitors.

However, there is a difference of opinion on three proposals – abolition of hereditary appointment of ‘sevaks’, elimination of collection of ‘dakshina’ (donation) and amendments to the Jagannath Temple Act of 1954.

At the meeting, Shankaracharya told the Amicus Curiae to respect religious sentiments of people.  He also explained to him how the Jagannath temple was different from other shrines in the country. Any attempt to tamper its culture and tradition would be counterproductive, said Shankararhraya. However, the seer made it clear that devotees coming to the shrine should have a smooth darshan of the deities. “Those coming to the Puri should return happy,” he said.

Subramanium said “Shankaracharya has given his views on what are the measures to be undertaken in the temple. We will go ahead with his suggestions.”

Chief temple administrator PK Mohapatra said, “We briefed him on various issues like the history of the temple, the hereditary rights, the transfer of temple from the Gajapati’s hands to the State Government and the significance of Rath Yatra.”

Subramanium’s seeking of views from Puri King Gajapati Dibya Singh Deb and temple management committee members is equally important. The same can be said of his interaction with members of Chhaittasha Niyoga, the confederation of servitors.  Meetings with law minister Pratap Jena and revenue minister Maheswar Mohanty and local leaders of Puri are on also planned.

Meanwhile, the temple administration today said action would be taken against persons who had put a rate chart for the sale of ‘Abadha’ in the temple premises. Earlier some servitors fixed the price of Mahaprasad of different types as Rs 70, Rs 80 and Rs 120 per ‘thali’ based on the number of items served. “The rate chart has not been officially approved,” said Mohapatra.

 

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