Puri: What is the ultimate desire of devotees visiting Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri? The followers of Lord Jagannath, who is also known as ‘Patitapaban’ do not look for big amenities. Their lone expectation while visiting the 12th Century shrine is to have a smooth darshan of the sibling deities, Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath, on the Ratna Sinhasan in the sanctum sanctorum and have ‘Mahaprasad’ in the Anand Bazar. These are the two basic desires of about 95 percent of the devotees who visit Puri on pilgrimage. Has Odisha’s most popular government been able to meet just two desires of the devotees? Though the Odisha government has earned world wide praise for managing disasters and organizing international sports events, the administration utterly failed to meet the aspiration of crores of Lord Jagannath devotees.
Many people, including residents of Puri, have openly expressed their displeasure over the manner in which the temple affairs are managed. The prime factor for a smooth darshan of the devotees is to conduct the age-old rituals in the temple. Lord Jagannath Temple is the only shrine on the earth where the rituals are most significant. Unless rituals are not done in a proper manner and time, all other things become irrelevant on their own. How to conduct seamless rituals in the temple? The servitors need to be organized, disciplined, responsible and accountable. The state government has failed to organize the servitors resulting gross indiscipline in the temple. This has a direct bearing on the visiting devotees. The people, mostly poor and middle class people from across the country visit the Shree Jagannath Dham with great expectation of having darshan of the Trinities. But, this is not happening because of several factors and the state government has so far not been able to streamline the temple affairs even as a full time Chief Administrator is appointed as per the recommendations of the Supreme Court.
Shree Jagannath Temple Management is a highly complex matter which needs cooperation of each stakeholder including the state government, devotees, servitors and the local Puri District Administration. Chief Administrator, may be highly efficient, cannot run the show without support of the stakeholders. The Chief Administrator needs the cooperation of others. The Puri District Collector and the local police too have a big role to play for smooth management of the temple. The temple is run under the Department of Law and therefore, the state government is responsible for the poor show in the temple. The state government has been investing crores of rupees for the development and beautification of the temple and its periphery, but it seems that other aspects have been overlooked, particularly the conduct of age old rituals in a proper manner. There is no benefit in blaming the servitors alone. The state government should take the responsibility and must ensure that the devotees visiting the temple return with a feel good factor. That is not happening.
Though the irregularities have been noticed for a long time, the state government has not been talking about them seriously. When Lord’s Nabakalebara festival was held in 2015, the devotes across the country were hurt over conducting “Brahma Parivartan” (Shifting of Brahma material from old idol to new idol) rituals in mid day while the tradition is to do this secret act silently in middle of the night. The state government did not take it seriously and no servitor was held responsible for the delay in “Brahma Parivartan”.
Take the recent instance when the Lord Jagannath, who is also considered as the Living God, starved for seven hours and no Maha Prasad was offered to the deities for seven hours. Whatever may be the reason, ultimately, the Trinity were not offered Maha Prasad. This has hurt the religious sentiments of devotees, who also do not visit the temple on that particular day. There were also irregularities during the last Ratha Jatra. This time it required two days for chariots to reach their destination even though pulling of Raths began at proper time. Nobody was held responsible for that. Again irregularities were also noticed during the “Pahandi Vije” of the Lord. At one occasion, the idol hugely tilted towards one side and there was a possibility of falling on the ground. However, the situation was managed. This happened because the servitors engaged in “Pahandi” ritual did not follow the techniques leading to chaos. Similarly, there was also irregularity on the bathing altar on the Snan Purnima Day. There was also disturbance in rituals when the Lords were in the Sri Gunndicha Temple. The deities could not sleep for three nights. Still, there was no action against anybody.
Taking all the factors together, it should be concluded that there was no proper focus of the state government on the proper management of the Temple. The most sacred temple for Hindus in the country is needed to run in a sincere manner. Shree Jagannath Temple affairs need utmost care and attention. The temple affairs cannot be smooth unless rituals are organized and disciplined. Nowadays there is a big rush in the temple as the devotees are allowed entry through only one gate. The devotees do not get entry into the temple through three other gates thus creating a huge rush near the Lion’s Gate. The gates remain closed on different pleas. Who benefited out of the decision to close all gates? Ultimately the devotees suffer and return home with a sad experience. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, being an ardent devotee of Lord Jagannth should personally intervene and issue directions for the smooth management of the temple affairs. There should be no excuse over irregularities in the Puri temple, which is the centre of aspirations for crores of people across the country. It is high time to make devotees avail hassle free darshan and have Maha Prasad in an organized manner. This will bring lot of laurels for the State, which is missing.