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Shankaracharya’s Rath Yatra boycott: Odisha minister blames SJTA

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, July 1:

The Rath Yatra in Odisha’s holy city Puri may have been over, but the debate over the controversial letter the administration wrote to the Jagadguru Shankaracharya lingers on.

Damodar Rout
Damodar Rout

Commenting on the move by the Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) that had asked the Shankaracharya of the Gobardhan Peeth Swami Nischalananda Saraswati to climb the chariot alone without his followers during the Rath Yatra in Puri, a senior Odisha minister has said the SJTA should not have taken such unilateral decision.

“The temple administration has no business to take a decision on the number of followers to accompany either the Shankaracharya or the Gajapati Maharaja to the chariots. The duty of the administration is to ensure smooth conduct of the festival without interfering in any of the rituals performed during the festival”, said senior BJD leader and Excise and Cooperation minister Dr Damodar Rout during an interactive discussion in Odisha Television (OTV) last night.

Describing the incident as grossly unfortunate as the Puri seer, for the first time, broke the tradition by not climbing the chariots in this year’s Rath Yatra, Rout said it would have been more appropriate, had the Shankaracharya stuck to his demand to accompany one or two of his followers to the chariots in response to the letter of the SJTA, which he did not do.

“As you know, it is not possible on my part to say that the act of the Temple Administration was wrong. But all I want to say, since it was difficult for the Shankaracharya to climb the chariot alone due to his old age, the Temple Administration should have considered this issue and allowed one or two of his followers to accompany him.

“Instead of writing a letter to the seer, someone from the SJTA should have discussed the matter with him, the minister pointed out.

Participating in the discussion, assistant secretary of Daitapati Nijog Binayak Dasmohapatra said the Nijog had no knowledge about the entire incident.

“We felt extremely sorry after we heard that the Jagatguru has decided not to climb the chariots. We had no issues with his climbing the chariots. Rather the Temple Administration had the entire responsibility on this issue. The Temple Administration kept us in darkness about the whole incident and did not discuss about the issue with us”, he added.

No one in either the SJTA or the state government is willing to come up with any explanation as to why such a decision was taken.

The state government had appointed senior bureaucrat and former chief administrator of SJTA Suresh Chandra Mohapatra as Special Officer in charge of Rath Yatra. However, it is not clear if he had a role behind SJTA taking such a decision with regard to the visit of the chariots by the Shankaracharya.