On July 5th, a Hindu advocate filed a petition in Supreme Court to allow the entry of non-Hindus in Jagannath temple at Puri in Odisha. It is true that this petition was filed by a Hindu, though a Hindu well-wisher can never do like this. The question arising here is, why are these people so curious about non-Hindus’ entry in Puri Jagannath temple? Having said that, some Christian and Muslim elements are trying to demean the purity of this temple by doing so. Mughal rulers and Britishers too aimed to destroy and minimize the greatness of this temple, but finally they never succeeded in their attempts. Now their dynasts are eying at Puri temple. It is worth mentioning that Puri temple is regarded as one of the fourth sacred places for Hindus, where Lord Krishna is seated with his brother Balaram and sister Subhadra. The most important fact of this temple is its flag atop the temple, which always flutters against the wind and is changed every day. The finest samples of Kaling style of crafts and sthaptya art can be seen in the premises of this temple spread over four lakh square feet. Lord Jagannath temple was built by Kaling Samrat Anant Varman in 1274, which is famous for its hidden treasures. Like Somnath temple, this was too plundered 18 times by Muslim invaders and in these attacks the temple was harmed, but Lord’s statue was saved.
Now the Supreme Court has suggested that the temple management should allow all those devotees who come here to worship Lord Jagannath regardless of their religion. In this regard, Jagadguru Shankaracharya, Swami Nishchalanand of Govardhanpeeth has said that it will not be acceptable to us to allow non-Hindus in the temple by avoiding the centuries-old tradition being practiced in Sanatan Dharma. Opposing this court suggetion and calling it interim, Gajapati Maharaj has said that non-Hindus can participate in Rath Yatra, if they want ro have darshan of Lord Jagannath. Though the Supreme Court in its suggetion has clearly said that non-Hindus, who enter into the temple, will have to follow the dress code and also have to declare their religion. However, it is categorically written at the entrance gate that only Hindus are allowed and this is the reason why temple priests have always prevented non-Hindus from entering into the temple.
However, this is not happening for the first time. In 1934, Mahatma Gandhi wanted to enter into the temple with some of his Muslim and Christian followers, which he was not allowed, and due to which, Gandhiji sat on dharna with Vinobha Bhave. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was never allowed in Puri temple because her husband, Feroz Shah was a Parsi. Ravindra Nath Taigor wanted to enter into the temple with his non-Hindu friends, which he was also not allowed. Srila Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON, also sought permission to enter the temple with some of his
foreign devotees, which was not given to him. In 1389, Sant Kabir was not allowed because of his Muslim dress and turban. In 1508, Gurunanak Dev wanted to visit along with his Muslim devotee Margana and he was stopped from entering the temple. In 1900, Lord Curzon was told that non-Hindus are not allowed into the temple. In 2010, Dalai Lama expressed his desire to enter the temple, which was opposed by the temple’s pandas. Giving an example of, to the best of my knowledge, former Chief Justice P B Gajendra Gadakar has written that no monopoly on a
religious knowledge is real secularism. Our secularism is based on Bhagavat Gita. The Supreme Court has surprised everyone by raising this non-Hindu issue, though it is a very sensitive subject for Sanatan Dharma and all Hindus.
Sanatan Dharma is a saswat stream from eternity. This religion is governed by Vedas and all the spiritual teachers. God Himself is the founder of this religion, not a human. In Vedas non-violence is taught. Criminals should be punished according to the system, as in the Gita Lord Krishna preaches to Arjuna. Krishna says that he does not have any attachment with those who do not keep affection for him in their heart. Therefore, only for want of some belief in the Lord, non-Hindus should not be allowed inside the temple. The court has no right to intervene in the
religious rites of Lord Jagannath. In 1952, the court had directed the temple authorities to work in accordance with Sattwo Lipi (records of rites), which was announced in the Gajapati Kishor Vs Odisha state case in the court. According to part 2, page 47 of Swatto Lipi, non-Hindus are not allowed entry in the temple. Even shoes or taking photographs are strictly prohibited.
In 1964, the Bench comprising five judges of the Supreme Court had heard the case. Again this time, the bench of two judges has raised this issue without any reason. Jagannath chetna and culture have been the power center of Odisha. Buddhists sees Buddha in Lord Jagannath. Jains see him as Rishabh Dev.
Jains believe that Ashadh Shukla II is the gestational day of Tirtha Rishabh Dev and on this day the Rath Yatra is organided in Puri. At many places, Rath Yatra is also organised for Rishabh Dev on this day. Hindus consider Gautam Buddha to be Lord Vishnu’s ninth incarnation. Jagannath Puri is the monastery of all the sects of Hinduism. All the great spiritual monks like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Nimbarkacharya, Vallabhacharya, Kabir and others have visited Puri. In 1568, Kala Pahad, the commander of Bengal Sultan, attacked Odisha and after obtaining authority over the state, he first attempted to destroy the Konark temple along with temple in Puri.
Subsequently, Muslim invaders attacked Puri temple continuously in 1592, 1607, 1609, 1610, 1611, 1647 and 1697. Mughal emperors Jehangir, Akbar, Shehjahan, Aurangjeb, Firoz Shah Tugalak attacked Puri temple sending their soldiers. In 1733, the last attacker on this temple was the Mughal ruler Taiki Khan.
Keeping all the above facts in mind, the people of other religions, especially Muslim society, were barred from entering the temple. No entry for non-Hindus in the temple was decided by the then temple administrator, Gajpati Maharaj, on which Shankaracharya also agreed. He argued that such a decision should necessarily be taken for the purity and security of the temple.
The main attraction of Jagannath temple is its ‘Bhoj’ and ‘Mahaprasad’. It is said that everyone in the world is keen to take the rice of the ‘Mahaprasad’ of the temple, where 72 quintals of rice is cooked in a traditioal way in a handi. Moreover, 56 types of dishes are prepared for Lord Jagannath and other deities throughout the day.
It is right that non-Hindus cannot enter in Jagannath temple, but a Muslim called Salbeg, born in 1600, was among one of the greatest devotees of Thakur jee, who wrote more than 900 prayers in Odiya language, which are still famous in Odisha. Owing to this, during the Rath Yatra, the chariot of Lord Jagannath is stopped for a while near Salbeg’s samadhi, built in Badandra. One of the important facts of Rath Yatra is that both Hindus and non-Hindus together pull the rope of the chariot and it is organised all over the world. Outside India, it is organised by ISKCON and participants happened to be pure vegetarian. In my opinion, these ISKCON people should be exempted and allowed inside the temple. I think Jagadguru Shankaracharya and temple management committee should take consideration on this.
(The writer is a leading columnist of Odisha)
By Arun Kumar Panda