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Jagannath Puri Temple Resists Suggestions On Entry Of Non-Hindus

By: for The Times of India on Aug. 25, 2011
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The Jagannatha temple in Puri, Orissa
PURI: Lord Jagannath of Puri has perhaps courted more controversies than any other deity in India. The gigantic 12th century edifice has been the scene of several conflicts and debates, the latest being the right of non-Hindus to enter the temple. The fires were stoked again recently when Rajya Sabha member Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, the man who matters most in the ruling BJD, suggested that non-Hindus be allowed into the temple to boost its tourist potential.

The reaction to the statement made at a meeting convened by the state's hotel and restaurant association was swift and loud — protests, dharnas, demonstrations and effigy burning episodes greeted Mohapatra wherever he went. The leader has since refused to back off. Mohapatra, interestingly, is not the only one in favour of changing the temple's ancient traditions.

Former chief minister and now Assam governor JB Patnaik has nearly the same take, except that he is demanding that ISKCON devotees be allowed in. They, he says, have played a pivotal role in taking the Jagannath cult and the chariot festival to the world. A peep into the temple's eventful history can perhaps explain some of this prickliness.

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