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Scuffle delays temple rituals

Security guards take the chariots for dakshina moda, a ceremony in which they are turned southwards for their return journey, in Puri. Picture by Sarat Patra

Bhubaneswar June 26: Rituals at Gundicha temple were delayed by nearly four hours on Monday following a scuffle between two groups of servitors. The Hera Panchami rituals could resume only after officials of the temple administration intervened.

Bhabani Puja Panda, who does bitarachha seva (a special service of the deities), alleged that a group of daitapatis manhandled him inside the Gundicha temple when he was with his family. “The daitapatis misbehaved with my family. When I opposed, they started beating me,” said Bhabani who sustained injuries in the scuffle.

However, the daitapatis alleged that it was Bhabani who misbehaved with family members of a daitapati inside the temple, which resulted in a heated argument.

“An inquiry will be conducted and action taken against those responsible for this untoward incident. We are in touch with the servitors who are assigned different services during rath yatra. The temple administration will ensure that all the rituals are carried out on time,” said chief temple administrator Arvind Padhee.

“This was an unfortunate incident. We will hold discussions between the two parties and solve the matter amicably,” said assistant secretary of Daitapati Nijoga, Binayak Dash Mohapatra.

Two separate complaints from both sides have been registered with the Kumbharpada police station. The police have already begun an inquiry.

This is the second time in the last few days that the behaviour of the servitors of the 12th century shrine has come under scanner. On June 23 a US national had alleged that servitors misbehaved with him on one of the chariots.

Last year during rath yatra nearly 10 servitors and some devotees were injured in a lathicharge. Even then the rituals were delayed by several hours. Regular occurrence of such incidents has raised questions regarding management of the temple.

“On the day of rath yatra, there was a delay in pulling the chariots as a result of which the deities had to stop midway. Then the issue of manhandling the foreigner followed. Now, there are reports of this scuffle between the servitors. It shows that the temple administration is not initiating any concrete steps to streamline the process,” said Suryakant Panda, a devotee.