Puri (Orissa, India): In an unprecedented event, a large group of Sri Jagannath temple priests marched down the road shouting slogans against the Gajapati King Divyasingh Dev who is considered by local custom to be the chief servitor of the famous Puri temple.
On Friday, hundreds of Sri Jagannath temple servitors under the banner Jagannath Sevayat Sammillani led by its president Narasingh Pujapanda accused the Gajapati of helping non-Hindus to enter the Puri temple and encouraging the ISKCON devotees to organise Rath Yatra in a number of foreign countries. They claim that this defies the principles of the ancient Puri temple.
They are critical against the Gajapati King's favourable outlook towards ISKCON who organized Rath Yatra festivals at different times during the year than the major parade held annually in Puri. They flayed the Gajapati for his presence in the 'anti-Hindu' ISKCON organised Rath Yatras.
They also alleged that the Gajapati had been encouraging so called Hindus of foreign countries to enter into the Puri shrine, the abode of Lord Jagannath. They claim that this often creates law and order problems in the town and hurts the religious emotions of the local devotees.
The Gajapati King of Puri happens to be the ex-officio chairperson of the temple managing body. This aside, devotees believe him to be the religious representative of Lord Jagannath and revere him as dear to the lord. His alleged involvement with ISKCON evoked severe criticism from the preists.
Madhav Gowdesar Vaishnav sect, activists of Adityavahini and Sevayat Kalyan Parishad joined in the protest with the Sammillani. The slogan shouting activists marched from the Lions Gate of the temple to the District Collectorate where they held a public rally.
Sevayat Sammillani president Narasingha Pujapanda and several other leading servitors and heads of various organisations addressed the gathering.
Besides denouncing the Gajapati King for his alleged anti-Hindu activities, they came down heavily on the temple administration, which according to them, was adopting anti-religious and anti-servitor policies. A charter of demands addressed to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was submitted to Sub-Collector Pravakar Sarangi.