Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Daily rituals at Lord Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar were disrupted for the second successive day on Thursday amid the ongoing dispute between three groups of servitors over an alleged land encroachment issue. The tussle between the Badu Nijog, Pujapanda Nijog, and Brahman Nijog is said to be the reason behind the disruption of rituals in the 11th-century shrine. The tussle is the fallout of a dispute over unsettled land belonging to Lord Lingaraj.

Though the ‘Sahanamela darshan’ is going on, rituals are not performed at the temple. Moreover, the ‘Abadha’ of Lord Lingaraj has also not been prepared after ‘Mangala Alati’ since Wednesday morning. Several devotees have expressed their resentment over the development.

“The servitors are often disrupting the rituals of Lord Lingaraj due to disputes between them and that is not at all acceptable. The issue should be solved and the rituals should resume immediately,” said Gobinda Mohapatra, a devotee.

“Are they punishing God for their own vested interests? These kinds of things are happening around the country due to commercialization,” rued another devotee.

“Rituals at the temple have been halted due to the dispute between three groups of servitors. Proper action should be taken against them,” said a female devotee.

Rituals in the 11th-century shrine are often getting disrupted round the year due to many disputes and lack of coordination between the servitors. Lord Lingaraj has gone without food many times in the past as well because of the tussle among servitors.

As per the Orissa High Court order, the unsettled lands of Lord Lingaraj which were being used by the servitors of Puja Panda Nijog and Brahman Nijog till now are gradually returning to the Lord's books. At the same time, the shops being constructed by the Badu Nijog on those disputed lands have received a green signal from the court for completion as soon as possible.

However, challenging the order, Brahman and Puja Panda Nijogs later filed a petition in court and obtained a stay order on the construction of shops by the Badu Nijog.

Terming it a conspiracy, the Brahman Nijog and Puja panda Nijog allegedly halted the rituals of the temple as a mark of protest.

Though the Assistant Commissioner of the Endowment Department conducted separate discussions with the three Nijogs on Thursday, it yielded no results.

“If the High Court has ordered that Badu Nijog is the owner of the disputed land then why all were kept in the dark about the development since 2019. They should have been ordered to execute work on the land in 2019. If hundreds of acres of land of Lord Lingaraj will be encroached on like this, Lord Lingaraj temple will be registered in somebody’s name in the future,” said Biranchi Pati, Secretary of Brahman Nijog.

“The disputed land is the unsettled land of Lord Lingaraj and it has not been given to any servitors. They are doing illegal construction on the land without taking permission from the Lingaraj Temple Trust Board,” said Sachikant Puja Panda, Secretary of Pujapanda Nijog.

Meanwhile, Badu Nijog servitors brushed aside the allegations by other Nijogs.

“It’s a conspiracy against the Badu Nijog. When they sold Lord Lingaraj’s land and made construction work on it, no action was taken against them. Why action will be taken against the Badu Nijog?” asked Kamalakanta Badu, a senior servitor of Badu Nijog.

Meanwhile, the Endowment Commissioner has ordered the authorities of the Lingaraj Temple Trust Board to take necessary steps for the commencement of rituals after holding discussions with the three Nijogs. He has also ordered the Trust Board to make alternative arrangements if the servitors don’t agree to resume rituals.