Two, including US student detained at Sri Jagannath Temple



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 temple unintentionally.

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.

PTI