Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Jul 30:
Over a week after the temple body served a show-cause notice on him for allowing a woman devotee to climb the Nandighosha chariot, the badagrahi of Lord Jagannath and senior Daitapati servitor of Jagannath temple in Puri Jagannath Swain Mohapatra on Wednesday threatened to file a defamation case against the temple’s chief administrator for purportedly maligning his image.
“I am the Badagrahi (body protector) of Lord Jagannath. I am not liable if any devotee climbs the chariot. It is the responsibility of the temple authorities and the police to prevent them from climbing on to the chariots. Suresh Chandra Mohapatra has tarnished my image by holding me responsible a woman devotee climbing the chariot. I will move court and file defamation case against him,” Jagannath Swain Mohapatra said.
The Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) had served notice to Jagannath Swain Mohapatra under provision of section 21 (b) of the Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1954 for allegedly not preventing the devotee from climbing the chariot in accordance with the temple order.
SJTA chief administrator, Suresh Chandra Mohapatra, however, has defended the decision to serve a show cause notice to Swain Mohapatra.
“Being the Badagrahi of Lord Jagannath’s chariot, he is as much responsible as Pratihari. He should have stopped the woman from climbing the chariot and immediately brought this to SJTA’s notice. Instead, he simply looked on,” he said.
Since last year, the SJTA has prevented devotees from climbing the chariots. The devotees can offer their prayer to the Lord by standing on the ground near the chariots, the SJTA order said.
Notably, as per the recommendation of Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, the Orissa High Court had ruled that no devotees should be allowed to climb the chariots and touch the deities during the annual Rath Yatra in Puri.
Apart from issuing show-cause to the senior servitor, the temple administration suspended a priest identified as Artatrana Pratihari, a member of the Pratihari Nijog, for allegedly escorting a woman to mount the chariot of Lord Jagannath before the ceremonial ‘Pahandi’ (procession) to Sri Gundicha Temple on July 21.
Following the incident, chief administrator of SJTA Suresh Chandra Mohapatra asked the district Collector and SP to investigate the matter, identify the woman and initiate action against her as per rules.