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Vikash Sharma

Bhubaneswar: The untimely Rath Yatra organised by International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) on the occasion of Basant Panchami in Mumbai on Thursday sparked a major controversy with Puri Srimandir authorities and Jagannath culture experts in Odisha opposing such arbitrary conduct of the festival.

The idols of deities- Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra were taken out in a procession on a single chariot from Shivaji Park in Mumbai today. The devotees pulled the chariot on prominent routes covering Shiv Sena Bhavan, Portuguese Church, Gokhale Road, Prabhadevi and the yatra culminated at Shivaji Park.

ISKCON's Mangalprabhu Das said, “In Puri, Rath Yatra is held in July, but here we organise the yatra on the occasion of Basant Panchami. Today, thousands of devotees attended the festival and cleaned roads and painted rangolis.”

It is pertinent to mention here that usually the official Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath is conducted in a grand manner in Puri in the month of July every year.

“They (ISKCON) are not Hindus and cheating people in the name of religion. It is a conspiracy to collect funds. Stern action should be taken against the organisers,” said Prafulla Rath, Jagannath Culture Researcher.

Puri Srimandir Managing Committee member Ramchandra Dasmohapatra said,” Earlier Puri Gajapati Maharaj had urged them (ISKCON) to not hold such untimely Rath Yatra. Despite repeated restrictions, they are going ahead with such rituals as they treat the festival as a commercial one. The State government should take stern action on the issue.”

On the other hand, Administrator (Rituals) of Jagannath Temple, Jitendra Sahu stated that he is unaware of the conduct of Rath Yatra in Mumbai.

“At a meeting chaired by Puri Gajapati Maharaj, ISKCON officials were told not to conduct Rath Yatra on a different date. We will discuss the matter and appropriate steps will be taken in this regard,” said Sahu.

Spokesperson of ISKCON in Odisha, Radhakanta Das said, “Odisha ISKCON wants Rath Yatra should be organised simultaneously with Puri at all places. We are holding discussions over today's RathYatra with concerned authorities.”

ISKCON has been organising the Rath Yatra on occasions other than what is held auspicious by the Puri Srimandir. Earlier, the decision of ISKCON’s Ludhiana unit to hold Rath Yatra on a different date was opposed. After massive protests and an FIR, ISKCON dissociated from the ongoing controversy surrounding the conduct of Rath Yatra by its Ludhiana branch on a different date.

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