Restriction on Chariot Climbing at Puri Rath Yatra
BY: SUN STAFF CORRESPONDENT
Pilgrims climbing chariots during recent Puri Rath
[ Photo: Sampradaya Sun ]
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Oct 13, 2011 JAGANNATHA PURI, ORISSA Worried by the recent assault on priests and pilgrims by police in front of the chariots at Gundicha Temple on the second day of Rath Yatra in Puri, the Jagannatha Temple administration has decided not to allow pilgrims to climb on to the chariots from next year.
A decision in this regard was taken at a high-level meeting of Orissa Government officials at Puri on Wednesday. The development has upset scores of Jagannatha
"We have decided not to allow devotees to climb the chariots at Gundicha Temple. Unlike previous years, we will not install ladders on chariots. Pilgrims will get darshan of the chariot-laden Deities from the ground," Jagannatha Temple's Chief Administrator, Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra told media persons.
"Just as pilgrims watch the gold-clad Deities during Suna Besha from the ground, they can view the Deities at Gundicha Temple from the ground as well," Mohapatra said.
High-voltage violence had broken out near the chariots on the second day of the nine-day Rath Yatra in July. Police rained batons when some priests were allegedly helping pilgrims to climb the chariots through the exit route. Thirty people, including some priests were injured in the skirmish. A worried Orissa government ordered an inquiry into the event. Four police constables were placed under suspension that time.
A ladder system was introduced on the chariots in 2006 to help pilgrims, mostly elders, to climb the chariots smoothly and safely. Prior to that, pilgrims used to reach the chariot floor in precarious manners, and there were instances of pilgrims falling off while trying to climb the chariots.
"The practice of allowing pilgrims onto chariots was not prevalent prior to 2006. So we will stick to that from next year. Presence of pilgrims on chariots might create violence in future," Mohapatra maintained.
People flayed the temple body for taking such a decision. "Rath Yatra is the only time in a year when pilgrims get a chance to go near the Deities and touch them. People of all hues anxiously wait for the moment to climb the chariots and touch the Deities. The government has no right to strip the rights of the pilgrims. This will trigger public
resentment," a priest said.