Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, June 19:
In a move that is certain to embarrass the Odisha government, Cooperation and Excise minister Dr Damodar Rout today came out openly in support of Jagadguru Shankaracharya’s view that devotees should not climb the chariots or touch the deities during the Rath Yatra.
“Every religion has its spiritual head, whose opinion on religious natters is binding on everybody belonging to that religion and Hinduism is no different. While it is the duty of the state government to ensure the smooth conduct of the affairs of the temple, including the Rath Yatra, the opinion of the Shankaracharya and the Gajapati Mahaaraj is final in matters relating to rituals,” Rout said today.
Clarifying that it was his ‘personal opinion’, the minister said some people had made it a ‘business’ in the name of tradition and are opposing the restrictions suggested by the Shankaracharya because they stand to lose out on their earnings.
It may be noted that after a meeting with Daitapatis, who are up in arms over the Shankaracharya’s suggestion for barring devotees from mounting the chariots, the Odisha government had said that devotees would be allowed to climb the raths except on three days: Rath Yatra, Bahuda and Suna Besha.
Only minutes later, the leader of the Daitapati Nijog had repudiated the minister’s statement saying even on these three days, there would be no bar on devotees climbing the chariots after sunset.
With the Gobardhan Peeth insisting on acceptance of the Shankaracharya’s opinion, a confused government yesterday called an all-party meeting yesterday where a decision was taken to form a committee headed by Puri MLA Maheswar Mohanty to resolve the issue.
The committee had its first meeting today.