SC suggestion on entry of non-Hindus into Puri Srimandir creates flutter

Puri: A day after the Supreme Court sought suggestions from the Puri Srimandir administration on entry of non-Hindus into the 12th century shrine, the matter has now snowballed into a huge debate evoking sharp reactions from all quarters including culture experts and servitors of the temple.

A division bench of the apex court headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Abdul Nazeer asked if the temple management could allow non-Hindus to enter the temple subject to regulations.

‘We have noted that Hinduism does not eliminate any other belief,’ the court said while suggesting the matter.

However, the suggestion has induced sharp reactions.

“I will term it as a unilateral decision since the apex court has not had enough time to consider the suggestions and grievances of both sides. But there is still scope for debate as the state government is yet to set up a committee as directed by the court earlier. The Centre and even the temple management have also not filed their reports, so we wait till the conclusion of Rath Yatra,” said senior servitor, Durga Prasad Mohapatra.

Similarly, Jagannath culture expert, Suryanarayan Ratha Sharma said “The proposal should be rejected outright. Right in front of the temple’s gate it has been inscribed that only orthodox Hindus are allowed into the shrine but despite that we have become more lenient allowing all Hindus to enter the temple. Now it would be a violation of the sacred Hindu and Jagannath culture,” he said.

Earlier on June 8, the court had sought a report from the Puri District Judge on how to curb mismanagement and alleged exploitation of the devotees at the Srimandir. The apex court yesterday reviewed the judge’s report and directed the temple management to implement the suggestions and update it in its website within two weeks.

The Puri district judge has suggested a plethora of measures for the 12th century shrine from abolition of appointment of servitors on heredity basis, prohibition on collection of money for Annadan Atika by servitors, ban on placing thali and pitches to receive donation, provision of separate toilets for men and women, queuing system for hassle free darshan and surveillance of collection from Hundis and receptacles.

Protesting the proposal to abolish heredity recruitment of servitors, senior servitor Nilakantha Mohapatra said “We are completely oblivious of the long term effects of the decision. It is possible that if the decision is implemented, in coming days, we may not even get adequate number of servitors. Once the service becomes purely job-oriented then it would be a big debacle.”

Some other reforms suggested include audit of temple funds by the Accountant General, handing over the control of Roshaghar and Chullas to temple management, identity cards for servitors and staff, registration and identification of tourist guides in temple office, reduction of unwanted staff of temple administration, single authorisation for security management on temple premises and amendment in Sri Jagannath Temple Act 1954.

The apex court has said that there are no issues in implementation of these suggestions but they can be carried out after detailed discussions with all the stakeholders. Senior counsel Gopal Subramaniam who has been appointed as the amicus curiae in the matter is likely to visit Puri to hold discussions on the proposals after Rath Yatra, which is scheduled to begin from July 14.