for The Times of India on Oct. 17, 2009
BHUBANESWAR: How many Jagannath temples exist across the world? Nobody knows for sure. To provide a reasonable answer, the Jagannath temple at Puri started making efforts to document all shrines dedicated to Jagannath and bring about "emotional integration and aesthetic unity" among them.
"A large number of Jagannath temples have come up in several parts of the country and abroad during the past few decades. Many of them, however, are not aware of the rituals at the original and most ancient Jagannath shrine," Puri king Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb, who is also chairman of the Jagannath Temple Management Committee, said on Saturday.
"We understand that it would not be practical for such temples to adopt all rituals and practices followed in Puri, but we want to reach out to these temples to ensure certain amount of uniformity in the rituals. For this, we have prepared a booklet Shrimandira Parampara," he said addressing a two-day "workshop on Jagannath temples", organized by the Puri temple administration at the Institute of Technical Education and Research (ITER) campus in Bhubaneswar.
"The overall idea is to ensure adherence to a set of uniform rituals, ensure proper management of all Jagannath temples and help all such shrines become dynamic centres for propagation of our culture," Deb added.
"To achieve our purpose, the temple administration is organizing a series of seminars. The first was held at Puri in 2007 and had attracted representatives from 31 Jagannath temples, while the second (which got underway in Bhubaneswar) has people from 60 temples spread over eight states," said temple management committee member Rabindranath Pratihari.
Quoting researcher Surendra Mishra, Pratihari said there are around 3029 Jagannath temples in Orissa and about 400 more in other parts of India; besides there are 600 more temples abroad. "We, however, do not claim this information to be reliable, but are trying to ascertain the exact number. In the next workshop, we intend to invite representatives from Jagannath temples outside India to learn more about the shrines functioning in foreign lands," he added.
The Puri temple's bid to "standardise" rituals comes in the wake of controversies surrounding celebration of the annual rath yatra by ISKCON temples, especially in Ludhiana and Delhi, on dates other than the one on which the festival is organized by the 12th century shrine. "We have written letters to Iskcon authorities and they have responded," the temple's chief administrator, Ashok Meena, said.