How the media propagated a casteist lie about the Jagannath Temple, Puri

President Shri Ram Nath Kovind and his wife Savita visited Shri Jagannath temple at Puri on 18th March this year. Soon, a report in the media suggested that a meeting between Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) members have discussed the ill-treatment meted out to the President and his wife. There was possibly breach of President’s security cordon. It also said some servitors allegedly milled around Savita Kovind, while she was offering prayers inside the temple’s sanctum sanctorum, leading to occasional jostling.

It’s worthwhile to note that, Rashtrapati Bhavan neither through any letter nor any note has ever written to SJTA about any harassment whatsoever. It was only discussed in a meeting between SJTA members headed by Puri collector Arvind Agrawal and the collector has reportedly launched a probe on this. In fact, after Rashtrapati Bhavan’s denial, the servitor association has filed an FIR against the collector and SJTA chief for falsely accusing priests of misbehaving with President Ram Nath Kovind and his wife.

However, none of this comes in the way of propaganda for the fact-free “journalists”, “activist” and Lutyen’s brigade. They immediately added the caste angle to it and started spreading the canard that the “Bramhin” priest allegedly misbehaved with President Kovind because he is a Dalit. Their story has so many holes that even a full grown Elephant can pass through it.

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Let me cite a few:

On June 28th, Shekhar Gupta, the brand new President of the Editor’s Guild tweeted that it was no surprise that President Kovind and his wife were ‘treated so boorishly’ by ‘casteist priests’ at Puri.

What eminent coup theorist fails to note, is that among 36 types of servitors, nijoga as it is called, most of them are not even Brahmins. For example, the servitors who prepare the earthen pot for cooking Mahaprasad are potters (Kumbhara). In fact, the class of priest who enjoys the highest privilege, Daitapati, are descendants of tribals. They enjoy some exclusive privilege and access during the annual Rath Yatra and Nabakalebara when the Lord takes a new form leaving His old body.

There are many other classes of servitors like the Suara, Bhoi, Bimanabadu, Bishoi etc who are not Brahmins and enjoy equal privilege inside temple performing some duty of the Lord. So, this imaginary theory that President was ill-treated because he was a Dalit falls flat on its face. But then, we can’t expect Shekhar Gupta to rely on facts, can we?

Gujarat MLA, funded by PFI and serial abuser, Jignesh Mevani went a step further and attributed this to Manusmriti and BJP.

Neither the rituals nor the daily affairs of the temple are administered by Manusmriti. In fact, most Odia, including yours truly will have no idea what Manusmriti is. The temple is run by SJTA headed by an  IAS officer of Odisha cadre reporting to Odisha state government. The committee reports to CM and Law ministry of Odisha. The servitors are on the payrolls of Odisha government led by BJD. We had written about it in the past but the Vadgam MLA has to lie about God and His adobe to score cheap political points.

Eminent historian Ram Guha invokes Indira Gandhi to take a cheap jibe at the Pandas and lies conveniently to further his agenda.

It is true that only Hindus are allowed into the temple. It includes Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs as well. The temple was invaded and closed 18 times in the past due to attack on the structure and the deity. Madala Panji, which chronicles the temple history since 12th AD stands as a living testament to this.

Hence, Indira Gandhi, who was married to a Parsi, was not allowed to enter into the shrine by the temple rulebooks. In fact, there is a long list of eminent people, who were not allowed inside the temple for the very same reason. But while at it, Shri Guha conveniently lied about Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhiji was not allowed because he was travelling with an entourage of Muslims and Christians and not because he sought to abolish untouchability as Guha suggests.

It is not untrue that the servitors at Puri temple in the past have misbehaved and even assaulted people. Fistfights have broken out in the temple leading to the filing of FIR and suspension of servitors. However, they don’t ask your caste, creed or social strata before insulting you. They are equal opportunity offenders. So let’s not play caste card where it is not applicable.

At the end of it, may I request the secular elites to keep Mahaprabhu and His abode free from their cheap politics and stinking agenda? We have issues in the temple but we are way better off without the cabal and their self-righteous virtues.

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