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Now, Shankaracharya’s right to climb chariots challenged in Odisha HC

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau

Cuttack, June 26:

The Odisha High Court seems to have become the favourite battleground for petitioners seeking interpretation of the record of rights of the Shree Jagannath Temple, Puri ever since the Puri Shankaracharya ruled against devotees climbing the chariots and touching the deities during the annual Rath Yatra.

Swami Nischalananda Saraswati
Swami Nischalananda Saraswati

While the High Court has upheld the Shankaracharya’s stand that no devotee should be allowed to mount the chariots, let alone touch the idols, a PIL filed in the court challenged the right of the Shankaracharya himself to climb the chariots.

The PIL has named the Odisha Law secretary, Shree Jagannath Temple Management Committee and Jagadguru Shankaracharya as the opposite parties.

The PIL filed in the High Court on Wednesday by Subrat Dash and Amit Mishra of Cuttack stated that according to the Shree Mandir Record of Rights (RoR), there is no documentary proof of Shankaracharya climbing the chariots during the Rath Yatra.

The PIL said the Shankaracharya had no role either in the pujas or in the rituals atop chariots. The petitioners have questioned the right of the Shankaracharya to climb atop chariots.

The sevayats (servitors) have specified definite role and responsibilities during the Rath Yatra and  therefore have the  right to climb the chariots, the petitioners said. Similarly, the Gajapati Maharaja has the duty of chhera panhanra (sweeping of chariots before the rolling of chariots) and is thus required to climb atop the chariot. But nowhere in the record of rights  has it been mentioned that the Shankarcharya can also climb the chariots to offer pujas.