Caste abuse in temple

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By OUR BUREAU in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 14.01.09

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 14: Purification rituals were performed at a temple in Bhadrak this afternoon soon after a state minister offered puja in the sanctum sanctorum.

Women and child development minister Pramila Mallik’s only fault: she is a Harijan.

Some sevayats (priests) objected to her entry after she had left the Akhandalamani temple at Aradi, about 150km from here.

Rituals at the 150ft temple — built by the ruler of Kanika state, Harihar Bhanja, nearly 350 years ago on the banks of the Baitarini river — were delayed by several hours as “maha snana” (holy bath of the lord) was performed to purify the “desecrated shrine”.

Pramila came to the temple this morning to seek blessings of the Lord Akhandalimani on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti.

But little did she know that an unsavoury incident was waiting for her. Soon after she left the temple, a section of the priests said that it’s only they who have the privilege to enter the sacred sanctum sanctorum. “No one other than us can enter the garbha griha,” said a priest.

Pramila, surprised and shocked over the development, explained that she was not aware of the temple rules and entered the sacred place unknowingly.

She later told The Telegraph: “I have visited several temples across the state. But this was the first time sevayats raised objections to my entry into the sanctum sanctorum. Had they told me that I was not supposed to enter there, I would not have done it.”

The MLA from Binjharpur in neighbouring Jajpur district was also surprised that no one asked a question about her entry there till she left the premises.

“I was sitting at the temple management board’s office for about 45 minutes and no one raised the issue. It was only after I left that the commotion started,” she said.

However, she tried to downplay the incident, saying there was no Harijan angle to this. “I do not understand why the issue is being politicised. Some religious rules are there in specific temples and I don’t see any harm if these are followed,” she said.

The district administration and the temple management also seemed to take the incident easy.

“The situation is normal now and the sevayats have called a meeting tomorrow to discuss the matter,” said temple management trust chairman and Bhadrak sub-collector Bibhuti Bhushan Das.

In 2006, the Keredagarh temple in neighbouring Kendrapara district also raised objection to the entry of Harijans, but the high court ordered special enclosures to be built for them. However, the enclosures were pulled down after some months.

In fact, there is no such discrimination against Harijans in famous Jagannath temple in Puri or Lingaraj temple in Bhaubaneswar.