By OST Bureau / Edited by Sandeep Sahu
Puri, July 26
The controversy over the alleged assault on noted Italian born Odissi danseuse Ileana Citaristi atop the Lord’s chariot on Sunday has intensified with the chief servitor of Lord Jagannath saying ‘foreigners’ (read non-Hindus) would not be allowed to climb the chariot from next year.
In her faxed complaint to the Jagannath temple administration and the police, Ileana had alleged that she was beaten up by two servitors on the chariot after she refused to pay Rs 1, 000 to them for darshan of the Lord.
“Foreigners will not be allowed on to the rath (chariot) from next year,” Jagannath Swain Das Mohapatra, badagrahi (chief servitor) of Lord Jagannath, announced on Monday. Ileana climbed the chariot at a time when the ‘abakasha’ ritual was on and all that the servitors did was to prevent her from climbing onto the rath, he said denying the allegation that Ileana was beaten up on the chariot.
The Daitapati Nijog, a powerful group of temple servitors, however, has disassociated itself from Das Mohapatra’s views. “It is his personal opinion and no such decision has been taken by the Nijog,” a spokesperson for the Nijog told EMS.
The temple administration and the government have washed their hands off the whole controversy saying they were awaiting a decision on the issue by the Puri Shankaracharya. A final decision on the entry of non-Hindus on the chariots was left to the Sshankaracharya after a similar incident last year when an American citizen married to a Hindu woman alleged that he was assaulted and thrown out of the chariot by the servitors.
Reacting to the chief servitor’s announcement, Ileana said; “It would be most unfortunate if non-Hindus are barred from climbing the chariot since Rath Yatra is the only occasion when they can have darshan of the Lord.”