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BJP urges ban on rath climb

Bhubaneswar, June 16: The issue of climbing onto the chariots during rath yatra and touching the deities found mention in the Assembly today.

Raising the issue in the House, BJP MLAs demanded that Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati’s recommendation to the state government to ban the practice of climbing the chariots be accepted by the government.

The Shankaracharya had said the devotees should not be allowed to climb the chariots and touch the deities during rath yatra.

The Govardhan Peetha, the seat of the Shankaracharya, had also criticised the government’s dilly-dallying attitude on the issue.

Raising the issue in the Assembly, BJP MLA Basant Panda said: “The seer has reached the decision after taking the opinion of experts and following the scriptures. Ignoring his advice is an offence to him.”

The Shankaracharya was asked by the temple administration to give his considered opinion on the sensitive issue last year.

However, the daitapatis, the servitors, have opposed the move.

Senior sevayat Jagannath Swain Dasmohapatra said: “The ethos of Jagannath culture is totally different. Here the Lord comes out of the sanctum sanctorum to mix with the people like a common man. No obstacle should be created between the Lord and the devotees.”

Swain Dasmohapatra further said: “Any move to bar devotees to climb the chariots during the rath yatra will boomerang. The decision taken at a meeting chaired by the law minister should be adhered to. We have agreed to cooperate with the administration to provide security to the chariots.”

According to the decision taken on June 11, devotees will not be allowed to climb the chariots during day hours on the occasion of rath yatra and bahuda yatra (return journey of the chariots).

However, on suna vesha (golden attire) day, the devotees can climb the chariots only after the dress is removed. On other days, the devotees can climb onto the chariots during the day also.

The temple administration, which is being criticised for not being able to handle the issue properly, has continued to maintain a stoic silence on the matter. A number of sevayats have alleged that if the administration had earlier handled the issue properly, it would have been settled by now.