Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Feb 10:
With the Daitapati Nijog serving an ultimatum to the Law secretary of the Odisha government yesterday on both arrear payments due to them promised by the government during the last Rath Yatra and on the issue of devotees climbing atop chariots, it’s now clear that preparations for the Banajaga yatra –the search for daru (neem tree) for making of idols – considered the opening chapter of the Nabakalebara process of Lord Jagannath, are not in the right track with hardly 46 days left for it.
Flexing its muscle, the Daitapati Nijog has warned in its ultimatum that it will not participate in any meeting or programmes of the government till the dispute over the payment of arrears due to them is resolved. The Nijog has further threatened that since the government is yet to take a decision on the issue of devotees climbing atop chariots, it will be forced to knock the doors of the court.
The administration is yet to hold a meeting with Daitapatis – the body protectors of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra – for preparations for Banajaga yatra. Daitapatis play a vital role in the whole Nabakalebara process starting with the Banajaga yatra to the transfer of the Bramha or ithe soul of the idols.
The Daitapati Nijog had earlier petitioned the Shreemandir Managing Committee asking for reconsideration of the restrictions imposed on climbing atop chariots by devotees during Rath Yatra. Two months have elapsed since then and the temple managing committee has held two meeting in between.
Though the government had promised the servitors of compensation soon after the Rath Yatra last year, it has not paid them their pending dues. Dilly-dallying on that account by the government has irked the Daitapatis.
Sources said the Daitapatis are trying their level best to build opinion in favour of devotees ebing allowed to climb atop chariots during this year’s Rath Yatra.
Earlier, Daitapatis had walked out midway of a meeting of the Nabakalebara Infrastructure Monitoring Committee meeting on December 30 last year protesting against the inordinate delay in making payments promised to them during the last Rath Yatra and had made it clear that they would not cooperate until thire dues are released.
It may be mentioned that the state government had debarred devotees from climbing atop the chariot for the darshan of the Lords during the Rath Yatra in June last year as per the advice of the Shankaracharya. The decision angered the Daitapatis, who threatened to boycott the rituals associated with the Rath Yatra. Caught between a rock and a hard place,the government had assured the Daitapatis that they would be compensated for the ‘loss’ they had incurred due to the decision.
On the other hand, while the issue pertaining to Daitapatis remains to be resolved, the state government has changed the niti prashasak of the Shreemandir. The decision of the government to change the niti prashasak, who had experience of more than three years in the conducting of rituals and temple procedures, has become the talking point in administrative circles and is being considered a wrong decision.
Sources said the government is planning to post a senior OAS officer, who had worked as the sub-collector in Puri to work as the OSD –Nabakalebara as his replacement. Informed sources are of the opinion that the new officer would need time to understand the typical deuli bhasa (temple language), deuli parampara (temple tradition) and mandir niti (temple ritual) as well as study the mind of the servitors. The possibility of rituals getting delayed due to misunderstandings thus cannot be ruled out.
The situation has given rise to apprehensions that lack of foresight of the government may lead to a stalemate like situation in the preparations for the Nabakalebara.
Besides, the administration had promised in December last year to raise the wages of temporary employees of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) and fulfill their other demands during an agitation by them. Non-fulfillment of the promise has led to resentment among the temporary employees and has demanded payment of the revised wage by Tuesday. Sources said these employees have planned to go on a 24 hour agitation if the SJTA fails to meet their demands.