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TO CLIMB OR NOT TO CLIMB

Every year, rath yatra draws lakhs of devotees to Puri. But in the run up to the festivities this year, the controversy over climbing onto the chariots has taken over everything else. Stakeholders associated with the rath yatra and the Jagannath temple find themselves on two sides of the to-climb-or-not-to-climb debate. As the issue is being debated at all levels across the state, The Telegraph throws light on the events that triggered the row, the views of the various stakeholders and the opinions of the people from a cross-section of society

THE BUILD UP

June 22, 2012

Shree Jagannath Temple police beat up 32-year-old US national Noel Magee Hayden on Lord Jagannath’s chariot. Widely condemned, the incident stirs controversy across the state. Questions raised whether to allow or ban non-Hindus from climbing chariots. Servitors want foreigners to offer prayers to deities without climbing chariots. According to tradition, temple administration seeks views of Puri Shankaracharya on the issue.

August 17, 2012

Temple administration again writes to Shankaracharya seeking his opinion on whether there is any bar on non-Hindus to climb the chariots. Shankaracharya discusses issue with scholars. Later, authorities decide to take a broader decision on whether devotees, irrespective of their religion, be allowed to climb the chariots

July 21, 2013

Furore breaks out after Italy-born Odissi dancer Ileana Citaristi, who lives in Bhubaneswar, alleges servitor has manhandled her atop the chariot. Citaristi lodges an FIR. Temple administration urges the Shankaracharya to take an early decision. Ileana, meanwhile, withdraws complaint after holding discussions with servitors

November 5, 2013

Shankaracharya recommends blanket ban on devotees climbing the chariots. He quoted from various scriptures in support of his decision

November 7, 2013

Temple administration accepts recommendation of Shankaracharya and committee is formed under chairmanship of chief temple administrator to implement the decision. Sensing that the decision could invite problems, the administration seeks opinion of state government

June 11, 2014

Law minister holds meeting attended by administration and sevayats. Decides to bar devotees from climbing chariots during the day on rath yatra and bahuda yatra (return journey). On suna vesha (golden attire) day, devotees can climb after the attire is removed. On other days, devotees can climb chariots

Compiled by Subhashish Mohanty