Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Jun 22:

Extremely peeved over reports of touching of the deities by devotees during the Snana Yatra, Gajapati Maharaja Dibya Singha Deb —the Raja of Puri and the Adyasevak (first servitor) of Lord Jagannath today said touching of the idols by devotees is totally prohibited.

Gajapati Maharaja & Snana

“Touching of Chaturdha Murti (the four deities of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Sudarshan) by devotees is totally prohibited. There remains no dispute or doubt after the November 2013 ruling by Jagadguru Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati on this account. The Jagadguru has again reiterated yesterday that touching of the deities by devotees is totally forbidden. As touching of the deities on the ratnasimhasan (bejeweled throne) inside the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) is totally prohibited, so also touching of the Lords during pahandi (procession in a queue), or on the chariot, or on the Snana Mandap or Adapa Mandap is prohibited. In no place can devotees touch the deities. Only authorized sevayats (servitors) connected with the rituals can touch them,” said Deb to reporters at a press conference here expressing anguish over the incident of devotees touching the idols on the Snana Mandap during the Snana Yatra on Monday.

“I was surprised and pained to see visuals on television channels showing devotees touching the Lords after Sahana Mela of Gajanana Vesha and just before the commencement of pahandi. Everything was peaceful and disciplined till suddenly devotees were seen touching the deities after breaking the barricade. Idols are not dolls they are symbols of feeling and sentiments,” said Deb.

The Orissa High Court too in its June 2014 verdict had said that whatever ruling Guruji (Shankaracharya) has given is binding on the state government and the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) and there is no dispute over it and all have to abide by it, he added.