Bhubaneswar: Only the Shankaracharya of Puri Govardhan Peeth, Gajapati King of Puri and `Palia Sevayats`, who have to perform designated duties on raths, can climb the chariots of Lord Jagnnath during the annual Rath Yatra, Puri Shankaracharya Nischalananda Saraswati on Thursday said.
"Nobody else should climb the chariots or touch the deities during the annual festival," the Shankaracharya told reporters in Puri adding, that he had held wide consultations with Hindu religious scholars and legal experts on the issue.
The seer suggested that sevayats who would face monetary loss due to the restriction could be financially compensated.
Shortly afterwards the temple management committee headed by Gajapati King Dibyasingh Deb approved it and constituted a five-member sub-committee for its implementation.
The sub-committee will comprise chief administrator of Sri Jagannath Temple Administration, Collector and SP of Puri, endowment commissioner and additional secretary in the law department, chief administrator of temple administration Arvind Padhee said.
The Shankaracharya had in September indicated to the Sri Jagannath Temple Administration that he would convey his decision in regard to devotees climbing the chariots and touching the deities by November 15.
Govardhan Peeth is one of the four monasteries founded by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th Century. Shankaracharya of Puri is the final authority to solve any ritual related disputes at the 12th century Jagannath Temple.
Controversy over the issue of climbing on Lord Jagannath`s chariot during the Ratha Yatra thickened this year after Italy-born famous Oddisi dance exponent Ileana Citaristi was beaten up by servitors on the chariot.
Citaristi, a `Padmashree`, alleged in her complaint that she and one of her woman pupils had climbed up the chariot by paying donation. When they tried to move close to the deity, they were physically assaulted by the servitor.