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Climbing chariots : Daitapatis up in arms against decision to debar devotees


Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, May 14:

Daitapati sevayats (servitors) of the Sri Jagannath temple are up in arms over the statements made recently in Bhubaneswar by the Gajapati Maharaja of Puri and the Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Govardhan Peeth Swami Nischalananda Saraswati dubbing the practice of devotees climbing the chariots and touching the deities during the Rath Yatra, the biggest socio-religious festival in Odisha that attracts nearly a million people to Puri every year, ‘maha papa’ (great sin).

Touching the idols Rath Yatra

“The Gajapati and the Shankaracharya are part of a conspiracy to create a distance between the devotee and the Lord. It’s actually the Gajapati Maharaja, who is committing the ‘maha papa’ by doing so. He and the Shankaracharya should withdraw their statement that devotees climbing chariots during Rath Yatra is ‘maha papa’. All are equal before the Lord”, said Ramakrushna Dasmahapatra, president, Daitapati Nijog.

He said since both the Gajapati and the Shankaracharya themselves climb the chariots and touch the deities as well, they are ‘maha papis’ (great sinners) too.

Another senior Daitapati and the badagrahi of Lord Jagannath , Jagannath Swain Mahapatra commented that the Gajapati Maharaja was hurting the religious sentiments of the people. Since the Gajapati himself is the first servitor of Lord Jagannath, asking devotees to desist from touching the Lords while calling it ‘maha papa’ was ‘shameful’, he said.

Decrying the decision taken without taking members of the Nijog into confidence, Dasmahapatra said unless the Gajapati and the Shankaracharya withdraw the word ‘maha papa’ they will not be forgiven by millions of Jagannath lovers.

He said lakhs of devotees rush to Puri during Rath Yatra every year to atone for their sins by climbing on the chariots and touching the Lord.

Swain Mahapatra said some people in saffron robes with sandalwood paste on their foreheads are trying to pose as seers.

Keeping the Nabakalebara festival of the Lord next year, some are trying to foment trouble inside the temple by putting up one set of servitors against the other in a  well planned conspiracy to defame the servitors, said another senior office bearer of the Daitapati Nijog, Binayak Dasmahapatra.

“An attempt is being made to break the tradition practiced over thousands of years and create indiscipline in the process. Gajapati kings have been observing the traditions for hundreds of years. Despite being the first servitor of the Lord, the present Gajapati  is trying to destroy tradition. Traditions practiced for hundreds of years are the basis for laws. This is a dirty conspiracy to keep the devotee away from Lord” said the senior servitor .

The same sentiments have been echoed by several office bearers of the Daitapati Nijog, who said it was a well scripted conspiracy aimed at destroying the bond between Lord and His devotees.

“Nobody can stop devotees from climbing chariots or prevent them from touching the deities”, they said.