Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

It seems as if there is no end to the controversy regarding the collection of rice from across the State through the Arpan Rath initiative. The Secretary of Suara Mahasuara Nijoga Narayan Mahasuara had earlier said on January 19th that the rice collected through Arpan Rath will be used in the service of Lord Jagannath at Puri Srimandir by preparing ‘Khechudi’. However, other Mahasuara servitors have warned not to prepare ‘Khechudi’ as the collected rice is a mixture of several varieties. 

Former Secretary of Suara Mahasuara Nijoga, Krushnachandra Samantara said that preparation of Khechudi from the mixed rice will not be allowed.

“We are in charge of preparing ‘Prasad’ for Lord Jagannath. It doesn’t mean that we will prepare the Prasad from whatever rice we are given. The collected rice has been mixed with many kinds of lower-quality rice including parboiled rice. I will not allow the collected rice to be cooked if it is not of proper quality,” said Samantara.

As per reports, around 12,000 quintals of rice were collected through Arpan Rath before the inauguration of the Srimandir Heritage Corridor project in Puri. However, instead of sending the collected rice to Puri, it was stored in different places across the State. But devotees expressed resentment over the development following which the collected rice was sent to Puri from January 24.

As per reports, the collected rice was first stored at Gundicha temple. Subsequently, around 5,000 quintals of rice have been sent to the Akshay Patra Foundation so far. However, the collected rice could not be stored there for a longer period of time due to bug infestation threat. Moreover, the collected coconuts will perish in a maximum of 10 to 15 days.

Following the development, there has been uncertainty over the use of 12,000 quintals of collected rice in the service of the Holy Trinity. Under such circumstances, several devotees of Lord Jagannath have alleged that the State government has duped them by playing with their emotions. 

“The government asked us to offer rice to Lord Jagannath through Arpan Rath. However, we came to know that it will not be offered to Lord Jagannath. We feel that our emotion towards the Lord has been played with,” said Bipin Bihari Apat, a devotee of Lord Jagannath.

Meanwhile, experts of Jagannath culture are of the view that the servitors should examine the quality of rice properly before taking a decision on its usage.

“Had any devotee offered parboiled rice through Arpan Rath then it should not be offered to the Lord. Suara Mahasuara Nijog servitors should examine the rice properly before taking the decision whether it will be cooked or not,” said Jagannath culture expert, Dr Naresh Chandra Das.

Meanwhile, Srimandir managing committee member, Anant Tiadi has informed that a committee will be set up to check quality of rice received through ‘Arpan Raths’ after a meeting on the matter.