Bhubaneswar, Nov. 7: Priests at Puri’s Jagannath temple, who zealously abide by the rule that the shrine is out-of-bounds for non-Hindus, today discovered that even foreigners could be Hindus.
The priests at the centuries-old temple turned out three Indonesian tourists who had been allowed to enter the temple as they were escorted by an Iskcon devotee. Even the followers of Lord Krishna are not allowed in unless they have “Hinduism” mentioned as religion in their identity cards.
Little did the priests realise that Indonesia, particularly Bali, has a sizeable Hindu population.
The three Indonesian women — Adriana T. Asha (60), her daughter I. Gusti Made Kristiasis (25) and I. Made Arjan (age not known) — had entered the temple in the morning with Iskcon devotee Madhusudan Das.
They were watching the mangal arati when priests, suspicious because they were speaking in a foreign language which wasn’t even English, asked them for their identities.
Told they were from Bali, the priests, unaware that Hinduism is an integral part of the religious influences that exist on the island, drove them away and handed them over to the local police.
They 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.
Chief administrator of the temple Suresh Chandra Mohapatra said the tourists were later allowed inside when they were found to be Hindus.
A few hours later, around 1pm, the priests stopped two Muslim youths on the stairs leading to the temple. The duo, Md Wasim Asgar (19) and Aftab Alam (18), are residents of Biramitrapur in Sundargarh district. “They were apparently not aware of the restriction on entry of non-Hindus,” said Mohapatra.
“We have detained them,” Gyana Mohapatra said.