Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Several traditional ‘Sevas’ (services) offered to Lord Jagannath and his sibling deities-Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra at Srimandir in Puri have become extinct with the passage of time due to various reasons. As per reports, out of the total 119 ‘Sevas’ of Lord Jagannath at the 12th-century shrine, as many as 17-18 ‘Sevas’ including important ones like ‘Sankha (conch service)’, ‘Devadasi’ and ‘Beenakar Kala Bethia’ have become extinct.

Sankha Seva 

Puri is known as ‘Shankha Kshetra’. However, the conch is not blown inside the temple as ‘Sankha Seva’ (Conch service), mentioned in the Srimandir Record of Rights (RoR), became extinct a long ago. However, there was a time when the Lord used to wake up with the blowing of the conch.

Devadasi Seva

Once ‘Devadasi Seva’ was one of the main services rendered at Srimandir. However, after the death of the last Devadasi Parasamani in 2021, the tradition has disappeared. Though the traditional service was stopped at Srimandir long back, Parasamani was reciting Geeta Govinda before Lord Jagannath till her last breath up to 2021.

Other extinct services 

Apart from the Sankha Seva, Devadasi Seva, and Beenakar Seva, many traditional services like Khatuli Seva, Parichha Seva, Geeta Govinda Seva, Suara Nijog Seva, Patarabandha Seva have become nonexistent at Srimandir. While only one service under Baijayantari Seva is being rendered, other services like Mahuri, Dholaki, and Swara Sevas have been stopped. Moreover, other Sevas like Kumbhara, Bishoi, Banua, Mapasaitia Karana, Kotha Karana, Charchaita Karana, and Daudibola have become extinct at the temple with the passage of time.

Reasons behind the extinction of services

Many traditional services have become extinct at Srimandir due to various reasons like the ‘Patali’ of the Holy Trinity at various places across the State during external invasions like that by the Mughal lieutenants in particular. As a result, many Gajapati kings in the past could not continue all the rituals initiated by their predecessors. Moreover, financial constraint is also one of the reasons behind the stoppage of many traditional rituals. This apart, servitor families with no male successors have stopped rendering a few services.

Demand for revival 

Meanwhile, several senior servitors, members of the Srimandir managing committee, and devotees of Lord Jagannath have demanded the revival of many extinct services including the ‘Sankha Seva’.

“Sankha Seva was a traditional and auspicious service and it was prevalent at Srimandir long ago. Apart from Sankha Seva, many other traditional services have become extinct in the temple. We request the government to reinstate the services to bring back the traditional glory of the 12th century shrine,” said senior Chunara servitor, Dr Sarat Mohanty.

Taking inspiration from Devadasis Sashimani and Parasamani, internationally-acclaimed Mahari dancer Rupashree Mohapatra had cherished an ambition to render ‘Devadasi Seva’ before the Lord. However, she has expressed her grief for being deprived of rendering the service at Srimandir.

“I had requested the Gajapati Maharaj to offer ‘Devadasi Seva’ before Lord Jagannath 10 years ago and the king had agreed. I had also sought permission from the State government to render service at Srimandir. However, nothing materialized,” rued Rupashree.

Responding to the demands, Chief Administrator of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), Ranjan Kumar Das said that importance will be laid on reinstating some most essential services following a discussion in the Niti (ritual) sub-committee meeting.

“Many traditional services offered at Srimandir have become extinct with the passage of time. The services having relevance could be revived following a discussion in the ritual sub-committee meeting,” said Das.