Rashmi Rekha Das

Odisha Governor Professor Ganeshi Lal on Friday urged Puri Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb and Adi Guru Shankaracharya to allow foreign devotees to enter Jagannath temple to pay offering to Lord Jagannath. 

Attending the inaugural function of Odisha Vision 2036 Conclave as chief guest, Lal made this statement.

Foreign devotees can meet Puri Gajapati, Adi Shankaracharya and servitors. Then, they should not be debarred from meeting Lord Jagannath inside the temple, pointed out Lal.

Being associated with Odisha, he requested the Puri Maharaja and Jagatguru to consider it even though many people will go against it.

He said, “A foreign devotee is allowed to meet Puri King, Adi Guru Shankaracharya and servitors. Thus, he should be allowed to meet the Lord.”

It is pertinent to note that over decades only Hindus by descent have been allowed to have darshan of Lord Jagannath and His siblings inside the Jagannath Temple of Puri.  

In 1984, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was not even allowed by priests to enter the temple as she had married a Parsi. In 2006, a Swiss citizen named Elizabeth Jigler was denied entry as she was a Christian.  Even as she donated  Rs1.78 crore to the temple, she was not given entry, sources said. 

When the issue was raised in 2006, Puri King was earlier quoted saying, “As Puri is the original seat of the Lord, there is restriction on the entry of non-Hindus into the temple. However, they can have darshan of the Lord in other Jagannath temples elsewhere."

When asked about it, BJP leader Jaynarayan Mishra said, “It must be the personal opinion of the Odisha Governor. It depends on Mukti Mandap’s decision. If Mukti Mandap wants and says yes, we will agree to it. There was time when Muslim rulers used to torture Odia people and demolish temples. That’s why people who did not belong to the Sanatan cult were not allowed to entry.  However, it solely depends on Mukti Mandap’s decision.” 

He went on to add: “Indian people following Buddhism are allowed to visit Srimandir. But, the Thailand Queen was deprived from visiting the shrine during her visit. Buddha cult is equal to Santan cult. When Indians following Buddhism are allowed to get into Jagannath temple, Thailand queen was deprived of it. However, I don’t want to get into controversy. I would like to urge Mukti Mandap to take a final decision in this regard.”

Reported by Harihar Chand, OTV