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Odisha Rath Yatra logjam: CM asks senior bureaucrat to play trouble shooter

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, June 25 :

Worried over the possibility of the ongoing confrontation between the Daitapati sevayats and the Shankaracharya – over the right of devotees to climb chariots -coming  in the way of the smooth conduct of the Rath Yatra, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik appointed the secretary of Water Resources department and former Puri collector Suresh Chandra Mohapatra on Tuesday as the Special Officer in charge of the world famous festival, due to take place on June 29.

Suresh Mohapatra with CM (file pic)
Suresh Mohapatra with CM (file pic)

Mohaptara, who has been assigned the task of playing the troubleshooter, was also the chief administrator of the Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) earlier and reportedly enjoys a good rapport with the Daitapati sevayats who play a crucial role in the Rath Yatra rituals.

Apprehensions over the Daitapati priests playing foul on the Rath Yatra day grew on Tuesday  after they refused to visit the palace of Puri King Divyasingha Deb, who supported the Shankaracharya’s ban on devotees climbing the chariots, for the customary “saree bandhaa’ ritual.

As per the centuries-old tradition, the Daitapati priests visit the Gajapati’s palace for the ritual. However, this tradition was violated on Tuesday, with a clear signal that the daitapatis were on the war path.

The Gajapati Maharaj Dibyasingha Deb, however, tried to underplay the irregularity as unimportant and explained away the absence of Daitapatis,  for the saree bandha ritual due to their preoccupation with other programmes.

Vidyapati Nabakishore Dasmohapatra, who led a small three-member team to the palace on Tuesday said he had to abide by the decision of their association ( Nijog) which is in no mood to appease the Gajapati or the Sahankaracharya .

The temple administration had formed a six-member committee to prepare a list of individuals, including the sevayats, who will be allowed to mount the chariots to perform their duties. The committee has already submitted its list, sources said.

Sources also said that the Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Puri Govardhan Peeth Swami Nischalananda Saraswati has sent a sealed envelope to the Temple Administrator’s office. There is no information, however, on its content so far.

The police have decided to set up a strong cordon around the chariots after they reach the Sri Gundicha temple and ensure no devotee or unauthorised persons are allowed to climb atop the chariot or touch the deities as per the instructions of the Shankaracharya and the Odisha High Court order.