A delegation of servitors of Jagannath Temple in Puri today met Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to register its opposition to the proposed entry of non-Hindus into the 12th-century shrine. The 22-member delegation of ‘Chhatisa Nijog’ Sevayats met the Chief Minister at his residence along with Puri MP Pinaki Mishra and Puri MLA Maheshwar Mohanty.
During the meeting, the delegation also discussed the Supreme Court’s proposal on abolition of hereditary services of servitors.
Presently only Hindus are allowed to enter Jagannath Temple and the issue of allowing non-Hindus’ entry to the shrine is being debated following the Supreme Court’s July 5 direction that the Puri Jagannath Temple management should consider allowing all visitors, irrespective of their faith, to offer prayers to the deities.
“The servitor community has been opposing entry of non-Hindus into Jagannath temple and will continue to do so,” Rama Chandra Singhari, who led the delegation, told reporters after the meeting with the Chief Minister.
Stating that the servitors’ views would be placed before the Supreme Court, Singhari said no politics should be done in the name of religion. He said the servitors, devotees and the government were keen to ensure that the age-old tradition of Shree Jagannath Temple was kept intact.
On the apex court’s proposal for abolition of the practice of hereditary services of servitors, Singhari said the matter was still under discussion. Singhari said the delegation apprised the Chief Minister of the views and some of the demands of ‘Chhatisa Nijog’, the apex body of temple servitors.
The chief minister described the servitors’ request as “fair and reasonable” and assured them of the state government’s support on the issue, the BJD MP said. Mishra said the Supreme Court has not been properly communicated about the practice of hereditary services in Jagannath Temple which has been prevalent for centuries.
The three-member committee, constituted by the state government to look into the matter, should hear the issue and accordingly submit its report to the apex court, he said.
Mishra also said amicus curiae Gopal Subramaniam should visit Puri and discuss the matter with the servitors before submitting his report to the Supreme Court.
The servitors’ meeting with the Chief Minister comes a day after Puri Shankaracharya Nischalananda Saraswati and Gajapati King Dibyasingha Deb, who is considered the first servitor of Lord Jagannath, opposed the entry of non-Hindus into the shrine.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) too has opposed the entry of non-Hindus to the Puri temple and said it would file a review petition in the Supreme Court to reconsider its proposal on this.