Puri temple servitors not even spare First Lady! Probe begins on ‘misbehaviour’

Bhubaneswar: In a major embarrassment for Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), three servitors have been accused of not maintaining distance and dashing against First lady and wife of President Ram Nath Kovind, Savita Kovind during her last visit to the 12th century shrine at Puri in March this year.

The matter came to light after the Rashtrapati Bhavan in an official communique raised the matter with the Puri temple administration recently.

The incident has once again brought to fore the recurring complaints on the ‘rude behaviour’ and harassment of devotees, particularly women, by servitors inside Puri Srimandir. And such an incident happening with the First Lady of the country reflects the gravity of the situation.

Taking stern note of the incidents of harassment of devotees inside Puri temple, the Supreme Court recently had directed for constituting a committee besides ordering a series of directives to prevent exploitation of  devotees and proper management of the Lord Jagannath Temple in Puri.

As per the complaint, the first lady was allegedly misbehaved by three servitors when she was trying to offer prayers in front of ‘Ratna Singhasana’ inside the sanctum sanctorum . The Khuntia Mekap sevayats present at the spot instead of making room for the visitors, dashed against the First Lady in the crowd. The President too was not spared, reports added.

Though the incident occurred during President Ram Nath Kovind’s last Odisha visit on March 18, Rashtrapati Bhavan expressed its discontent over such behavior of the servitors in an official communique after their visit.

The severe lapses and misbehaviour shown towards the President and the First Lady and the objection raised by Rashtrapati Bhavan were discussed during the Administrative Committee Meeting of Puri Srimandir held on March 20.

It is pertinent to mention here that adequate security measures were undertaken and restriction clamped for general darshan by devotees in view of the scheduled visit of the President in March this year. Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Puri Collector Arvind Agarwal and State Revenue Minister Maheswar Mohanty had also accompanied the couple during their darshan to the Srimandir.

“It appears that the servitors who mostly spend their time inside the temple are not aware of the protocol for which such thing could have happened. The servitors are also ignorant about the protocol that clearly suggest that they should at least maintain some distance while interacting or performing their duties during VVIP visit,” said senior sevayat, Damodar Pradhani.