Puri: An American national along with her
Oriya friend were detained by priests today in the Sri
Jagannath temple where non-Hindus are not allowed entry.
Katie Leonard, a 23-year-old American woman student
and her classmate Gourab Sarangi of Sambalpur, doing PhD in
Physics in the USA, entered the 12th century to have a glimpse
of the presiding deities.
As the woman student was dressed in a traditional
salwar-kameez and covered her head, she was not recognised as
a foreigner at the high-security Singhadwar.
After a glimpse of the `parswadevatas`, they entered
the sanctom sanctorum for a darshan of the presiding deities -
Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra - where they
were spotted by the priests.
The rituals at the temple came to a standstill after
the priests and temple police took the two to the Sinhadwar
police station for questioning.
Both pleaded that they were unaware of the restriction
on non-Hindus in the temple.
"We didn`t know the restrictions here, otherwise, we
wouldn`t have entered. We visited other pilgrim places
including the Samaleswari temple at Sambalpur, but did not
face any problem," Gourab said.
Debi Prasad Panda, administrator, Neeti (Rituals), of
the temple administration later said that the two entered the
After interrogation they would be handed over to the
temple administration which would, in all probability, let
them off with a nominal fine for violating temple rules,
police sources said.
Temple rituals were affected as the deities were given
a `Mahasnan`, a ritual for purification as non-Hindus are not
allowed entry into the temple, Panda said.