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Swiss miss opens purse for temple - Donation highest ever by individual

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By SUBRAT DAS in Bhubaneshwar
  • Published 17.05.06
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Bhubaneswar, May 16: $400,000 (Rs 1.78 crore) may not be good enough to find a way past the gates of Jagannath temple for Elizabeth Ziegler.

The lawyer from Switzerland has just made the Puri temple richer, but being a non-Hindu, she is still ineligible to enter the shrine.

Based in Au Barreau near Geneva, Ziegler e-transferred the money from her account to that of the temple on April 18, said Suresh Mohapatra, chief administrator of the shrine.

A large number of devotees offer hefty donations to the Jagannath temple every year. But they all pale in comparison with Ziegler?s contribution, which is the highest ever by an individual.

Along with the money, the lawyer has also sent a ?wish list?, which includes feeding 100 priests, giving them clothes and tying the flag atop the temple on December 11.

B. Lal, chief manager of the State Bank of India main branch in Puri, confirmed that the foreign donation has been transferred to the temple account. He, however, refused to divulge the details of the sender and the amount.

This is not the first time the lawyer has opened her purse for the temple. She had donated around Rs 20 lakh to the temple between 2001 and 2003, said Mohapatra. The last time Ziegler was in Puri was around 10 years ago.

The temple, which gets thousands of visitors every day, is in the middle of a funds crunch. The amount required to run the administration of the temple and perform the rituals works out to around Rs 15 crore per year, of which Rs 3 crore comes from the government. A major portion of the state contribution is spent on payment of salary to the temple staff.

The last major donation was Rs 10 lakh, which happens to be the upper limit for hundi donations. The identity of the sender, however, is not known as the money was given in cash.

Her generosity notwithstanding, it is unlikely that the temple authorities will make an exception for Ziegler and allow her to enter the temple she patronises.

Asked if they would open the gates for the Swiss lawyer in view of her contribution, Mohapatra said a firm ?no?.

So the next time the lawyer visits the temple town, she will, like other non-Hindus, have to be satisfied with a view of the shrine from a raised platform outside.