Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 12:
Maintaining that devotees climbing the chariots during the annual Rath Yatra (Car Festival) is actually a ‘maha papa’ (great sin), the Gajapati Maharaja of Puri Dibyasingha Dev said on Monday the decision of the Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Govardhan Peeth Swami Nischalananda Saraswati in this regard is binding on not only just the managing committee of the Shree Jagannath Temple, but also on the Odisha government.
“The Jagannath Temple Act and the Record of Rights (RoR) of the Temple leave no room for any confusion on this. Jagadguru Shankaracharya’s decision in all religious matters is final,” the Gajapati Raja told media persons here this evening.
The Puri Raja was addressing the media on the occasion of a function organised for the release of a 53-page booklet containing the views of the Shankaracharya on the matter at Jayadev Bhavan here.
The Shankaracharya himself was present on the dais on the occasion where the Odia translation of the booklet originally written by him in Hindi, was also released. Both the Hindi and Odia versions have been published by the Swasti Prakashan Sansthan, Puri.
“Once the Shankaracharya has given his well considered decision, there is no appellate authority that can reverse it,” Dev asserted.
Though the Shankaracharya could have given his opinion on devotees climbing atop the chariots during the Rath Yatra immediately after the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) sought his opinion on the matter in 2012, he studied the scriptures in great detail and then initiated an elaborate consultation exercise involving all stake holders – the Mukti Mandap, experts in religious texts from all over the country, various servitors’ bodies and others – before giving his recommendation on November 5, 2013, he said.
“The temple managing committee accepted the Shankaracharya’s decision two days later and then immediately sent it to the state government, which is yet to take a call on the issue,” Dev said.
Calling for the wide circulation of the booklet so as to remove doubts and confusion about the matter, the Gajapati Maharaja expressed the hope that the state government would take a decision on the matter well ahead of the Rath Yatra on June 29 this year.
A host of dignitaries, including former DGP Gopal Nanda, former Supreme Court judge Justice Debapriya Mohapatra, former Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court Justice AS Naidu, vice chancellor of Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Tirupati Prof Harekrushna Satpathy, Swami Shivchidananda Saraswati Maharaj of the Dibya Jeevan Sangha, Odisha, Aachyuta Samanta, founder of KIIT University and Jnanapith award winning writer Pratibha Ray also addressed the gathering on the occasion.
It may be noted that the Car Festival in Puri has been marred by ugly incidents atop the chariots in the last two years, leading to a prolonged debate on whether devotees should be allowed access to the chariots during the nine-day sojourn of the Trinity.
As per well established convention, the SJTA had sought the opinion of the Shankaracharya on the matter in 2012.
In 2012, a non-Hindu married to a Hindu lady was allegedly beaten up and thrown out of the Rath by servitors while eminent Odissi danseuse Illeana Citaristi, who has made Odisha her home, was allegedly manhandled by two servitors the next year.