Devotees from various parts of Odisha have reacted sharply and expressed their anguish over the ‘absurd appeal’ recently made by the administrator of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), Ranjan Kumar Das, to the sick and elderly devotees.
Das recently appealed to sick and elderly devotees not to visit Puri by being excessively enthusiastic and pray to the Lord at any place instead.
Nalini Mohanty, a devotee from Gunupur, said, “Advising the sick and elderly devotees against visiting the holy city of Puri, famous worldwide as Jagnnathadham, and that too in the holy month of Kartik is condemnable.”
Umashankar Das, another devotee from Gunupur termed the appeal of the SJTA administration to the elderly devotees as a derisive remark.
“In the month of Kartik, devotes are always spirited to have darshan of the deities in the Puri temple. Making such an appeal without making any facilities and arrangements for the elderly devotees is nothing but a derision to them,” he observed.
Narayan Panda, a devotee of Lord Jagannath from Nabarangpur, expressed his displeasure over such appeal. “Devotees, be they sick, elderly, physically challenged, have every right to have darshan of Lord Jagannath anytime. Denying them to visit the temple is an injustice to them. These devotees should have special arrangements,” he said.
Bijay Mihsra, another devotee from Nabarangpur observed, “Every devotee has a strong wish to have a glimpse of the deities from close quarters in Puri temple. If the administration and the government fail to ensure their wish, it is very unfortunate.”
Indrakhi Das, a resident of Gunupur strongly condemned the appeal and advice of the SJTA administration to the sick and elderly devotees.
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As for the controversial appeal of the SJTA administration and the reported plight of devotees within barricades, Law Minister Jagannath Sarka observed that the administration should put in place the amenities suitably necessary for the devotees visiting the Puri temple.
On the other hand, the rituals in the Srimandir were conducted earlier on Wednesday, after a meeting of the SJTA held yesterday regarding the arrangements.
Apart from chairs, a special shed has been made for the elderly devotees in front of Srimandir. A decision was taken to expand the barricades up to Marichakote for smooth and peaceful darshan of devotees during the Panchuka period.
Significantly, volunteers will be deployed to look after the elderly and physically challenged devotees.
Collector Samartha Verma said that all arrangements are ready for Panhucka and rituals will be more streamlined. The number of volunteers will be increased, he added.
Puri SP, Kanwar Vishal Singh, said that extra queues and barricades have been made while volunteers were provided to ensure smooth darshan by devotees. “If any devotees face problems in barricades, we have made provision of rescuing them immediately and having them water.”