PIL against replica of Jagannath temple

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By LALMOHAN PATNAIK
  • Published 25.09.11
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Cuttack, Sept. 24: A public interest litigation filed in the high court has sought intervention to stop “construction of a replica of Jagannath temple in Puri for non-Hindus”.

According to the temple rules, only those who are born Hindus are allowed inside temple. The 12th century temple has borne witness to tension several times in the past following entry of foreigners into its premises.

Foreigner devotees belonging to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) have been demanding their entry into the temple claiming that they are Hindus.

However, the temple priests and Hindu organisations have been opposing the demand.A few months ago, BJD leader and Rajya Sabha member Pyari Mohan Mohapatra had landed in a controversy when he suggested that both Hindus and non-Hindus should be allowed entry into the Jagannath temple.

Mohapatra had said that when Hindus were allowed into mosques and churches everywhere in the country and abroad, why should there be restriction on entry of people from other religions in the Puri temple.

As Lord Jagannath is the lord of the universe, the temple should be open to all, he had argued.However, temple priest and activists of Hindu organisations had staged demonstrations to protest against Mohapatra’s statement.

Recently, filing a PIL, a resident of Mahamadia Bazar in Cuttack city Jayanti Das, 46, has alleged “the replica planned for construction at Jagannath Ballav Mutt in Puri by the Orissa Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) to entertain non-Hindus and foreigners is a clear intrusion into the privacy of religion of Hindus by the state government”.

“The OTDC has made a mockery of the Hindu religion by planning the replica through which it proposes to illustrate and explain Jagannath culture to foreigners and non-Hindus along with a two-storey shopping mall for 140 vendors to sell articles related to Lord Jagannath,” Das contends. The high court has not taken up the PIL for hearing so far. The PIL filed on Friday has sought quashing of OTDC’s plan.

According to the petition, the OTDC has already submitted the plan to the Puri Konark Development Authority (PKDA). Chief minister Naveen Patnaik had approved the project last month. An amount of Rs 14 crore has already been sanctioned and OTDC has approached the chief minister for an additional Rs 15 crore from the next budget. The OTDC has no proposal to set up idols for worship at the replica temple and instead plans to promote only the sculpture and design of the Jagannath temple in Puri.

“There are hundreds of Jagannath temples across Orissa which are in a pitiable condition and the state endowment commission does not even have a proper inventory of them. The nearly Rs 30 crore expenditure planned for the replica could be spent on protection and preservation of architecture of the existing Jagannath temples,” the petitioner suggests.

The petition also expected the government “to spend an equal amount of money for the sanitation, security, and beautification of the Puri Jagannath temple”. According to tradition, the logs used for construction of the chariots for the annual rath yatra of Lord Jagannath in Puri are generally used in the kitchen and for other activities in the temple.

“The government is breaking the age-old tradition by planning a miniature chariot for the replica temple for non-Hindus and foreigners,” the petition argues seeking judicial intervention against the Jagannath temple replica project.