Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Jun 21:

Shankaracharya of Govardhanpeeth Swami Nischalananda Saraswati today expressed severe resentment over the touching of the deities by devotees at the Snana Mandap during the Snana Yatra of Lord Jagannath held in Odisha’s Puri on Monday.

Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati


The Shankaracharya said touching of the deities in whichever place they are seated is against the rules. He said wherever the deities are placed be it the Snana Mandap, the chariots or Gundicha mandir touching them is against the rules since these places become the sanctum sanctorum on them being placed there.

“My decision was not with regard to chariots alone, it’s about all the inconsistencies in the Shree Mandir. When I took the decision in the context of the chariot I considered the chariot as the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum). Wherever, Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra are seated be it Gundicha mandir or Snana mandap all get converted to garbha griha. Wherever the Lords are placed or seated is the garbha griha,” stated Swami Nischalananda Saraswati speaking to reporters in his reactions on the touching of the deities by devotees during Snana Yatra.

The Niti Samanya Committee (ritual coordination committee) of the Shree Jagannath temple had banned touching of the deities at Snana Mandap. However, reports said devotees in utter violation of the committee’s decision had touched and embraced the deities violating the prohibition. It’s alleged that priests allowed devotees to touch the Lords during the Hati Vesha (elephant attire) for money.

Notably, earlier, in 2014 the Shankaracharya had unambiguously suggested that devotees should be banned from climbing the chariots and touching the deities during Rath Yatra. The Govardhanpeeth seer had termed the act of climbing of the chariots and touching of the idols by the devotees as mahapaap, or the greatest sin. The Shankaracharya view had been vehemently opposed by the Daitapatis. Since climbing atop chariots and touching of the deities has been banned.