Devotees can touch Jagannath during Rath Yatra, no decision on foreigners
Bhubaneswar: Even as Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) on Wednesday resolved to allow devotees to climb the chariots during Rath Yatra and touch the Trinity as usual, it could not take any decision on whether to give similar privilege to the devotees of foreign origin.
"It has been decided by Srimandir managing committee that this time also devotees will be allowed to climb the three chariots during Rath Yatra and touch the Trinity," Chief temple administrator Arvind Padhee told reporters after a meeting presided over by Puri king Divyasingha Deb.
Though earlier the SJTA had decided not to allow devotees to touch the Trinity on chariots, it today changed its stand in the face of opposition from a section of priests.
The Daita priests, who are in-charge of the Trinity during Rath Yatra, had threatened that they would non-cooperate if the SJTA restrict devotees to climb chariots and touch the Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra.
Asked about the SJTA`s decision on allowing devotees of foreign origin to climb and touch the Trinity, Padhee said "Since it is a religious matter, the decision will be taken by Shankaracharya of Puri and other scholars."
Meanwhile, sources said Shankaracharya of Puri, Nischalananda Saraswati had convened three meetings during last one year. However, no decision was taken on the issue of allowing foreigners on the Lord`s chariots.
Last year, an American devotee was assaulted by temple police as he climbed on the chariots. The American national had lodged a complaint with police. The police, however, could not take action against any one as the matter was related to religious belief of crores of people.
While priests of the 12th century shrine are opposed to allow foreigners to climb and touch Jagannath during the car festival, certain researchers on Jagannath culture viewed otherwise.
Rath Yatra is the only occasion when the deities come out of the temple for devotees. And it is nowhere mentioned that non-Hindus cannot climb atop the chariots, argued a researcher.
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