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Puri temple in Hindu gaffe

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 7: Priests at Puri’s Jagannath temple, who zealously enforce the rule barring entry of non-Hindus into the shrine, today discovered that even foreigners could be Hindus.

The priests had turned out three Indonesian women — Adriana T. Asha, 60, her daughter I. Gusti Made Kristiasis, 25, and I. Made Arjan — who entered the temple in the morning with Iskcon devotee Madhusudan Das.

The visitors were watching the mangal aarti when the priests, suspicious because they were speaking in a foreign language, asked them for their identities.

Told they were from Bali, the priests, unaware that the Indonesian island is home to a sizeable Hindu population, drove them out and handed them over to police.

The women were released after they were found to be Hindus, following verification of their passport and other documents.

The Indonesians are part of a 15-member team from Bali visiting Puri on a tour organised by Iskcon.

Gyana Ranjan Mohapatra, the officer in charge of the town police station, who verified their passport and other documents, said the women’s voter IDs clearly mention that they are Hindus.

Even Krishna devotees are not allowed into the centuries-old temple unless their identity cards mention “Hinduism” as their religion.

Chief administrator of the temple Suresh Chandra Mohapatra said the tourists were later allowed back inside.

A few hours later, around 1pm, the priests stopped two Muslim teenagers on the stairs leading to the temple.

Mohammad Wasim Asgar, 19, and Aftab Alam, 18, are residents of Biramitrapur in Orissa’s Sundargarh district. “They were apparently not aware of the restriction on entry of non-Hindus,” Gyana Mohapatra said. “We have detained them.”

On March 1, an American was taken to the police station after he was found on the temple premises but was later released.

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