Bhubaneswar: With the controversy over the prevailing practice of climbing the chariots of Lord Jagannath by devotees during the Rath Jatra intensifying, Odisha government on Tuesday appointed senior bureaucrat Suresh Chandra Mohapatra as the Special Officer to manage the festival.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik approved appointment of Mohapatra as the special officer. Mohapatra, the Secretary of Water Resources department, was earlier the chief administrator of the Sri Jagannath Temple Administration, besides working as the Puri district collector for some time.
The state government decided to stop the practice (climbing on chariots) following a recent Orissa High Court judgment which supported Shankaracharya Nischalananda Saraswati`s recommendation. The Puri seer had earlier said that climbing on chariots and touching the deities was a sin and against the Hindu religion.
The Daitapati priests, who play a vital role during the Rath Jatra, however, opposed the Shankaracharya`s decision and were in favour of allowing the devotees to climb the chariots. Puri King Divyasingha Deb also supported Shankaracharya`s views on the controversial issue of putting a ban on the practice.
After expressing their resentment against the government`s decision at the coordination committee meeting attended by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on June 22, Daitapati priests today did not visit the palace of Puri King Divyasingha Deb in protest.
As per the rituals, the Daitapati priests used to visit the palace on this day.
"Our Nijog (association) decided not to visit the palace today," said Vidyapati Nabakishore Dasmohapatra.
Meanwhile, civil and police administration in Puri have prepared a road map for proper implementation of Shankaracharya`s decision to ban pilgrims` access to chariots during Rath Jatra, official sources said.
The temple administration has formed a six-member committee to select persons, who will be allowed to climb the chariots to perform their duties while the police have decided to cordon off the chariots soon after they reach their destination, sources said.
Adequate number of police personnel would be deployed to keep the chariots out of bounds to pilgrims at Gundicha Temple. There is a proposal to keep the chariots under the surveillance of CCTV cameras to ensure that nobody violates the state government`s `ban`, sources said.