Mrunal Manmay Dash

Bhubaneswar/Puri: Odisha Assembly on Saturday cleared bill to grant autonomy to Govardhan Peeth which is headed by Puri’s Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati. The autonomous tag was accorded to the Govardhan Mutt after necessary amendments to Orissa Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1951.

Sources said that over 18,000 Mutts in Odisha are still under the control of Endowments Act under the Law Department, but the government was forced to consider Govardhan Mutt’s case as it was established by Adi Shankaracharya who is highly revered in Hindu religion.

According to government sources, Govardhan Mutt cannot be treated at par with other such religious institutions (Mutts) as Swami Nischalanand, who heads the Mukti Mandap Committee, plays an important role in the affairs of Sri Jagannath Temple in Puri.

It is also learnt that all the other three Mutts- Sharada Mutt of Sringeri (Karnataka), Dwaraka Mutt in Gujarat and Jyotir Mutt in Uttarakhand, all enjoy full autonomy.

As per reports, Govardhan Mutt chief Swami Nischalananda Saraswati was quite vocal in the past and expressed his displeasure in State government’s interference in affairs of religious institutions.

However, criticizing State government’s move, Congress leader Narasingha Mishra said, “This is a money bill, so it can’t be implemented without the consent of Governor. That Mutt hasn’t given accounts of the last 10 years to the state government. If Govardhan Mutt had not obeyed the rules when it was under the government's control, one can only imagine what will happen after the autonomy.”

Responding to Mishra's allegations, Odisha Law Minister, Pratap Jena said, “This is not a money bill and hence no consent is required from the Governor to implement this law.”