The Jagannath Temple in Puri remained shut for around 14 hrs on Friday due to confrontation between police and the priests. Thousands of devotees had to return without darshan as the priest refused to open the gates of the temple.
The tussle took places between the priests and the police when a priest named Bhawani Shankar tried to take three people inside the temple on Thursday evening. They were stopped by the police personnel at the main gate on the suspicion of being non-Hindus, officials said.
According to the customs of the 900-year-old temple, only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple. Back in 1984, even Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was not allowed to enter the temple as she had married a Parsi. Similarly in 2006, a Swiss citizen, Elizabeth Ziegler who had made donations worth Rs 1.78 crore was denied entry for being Christian.
The gates of the temple were opened after meeting took place between the priests and the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) and the SJTA assured the priests of strict against the police personnel if they were found to be at fault. “We had taken up the matter with the SJTA after the police assaulted a sevayat (servitor) yesterday. We had demanded action against the police the basis of the CCTV footage. But they did not listen to our demands. So we had closed the doors of the main temple and decided not to perform any rituals of the deities till our demands are met,” said Sambit Muduli, a sevayat.
Odisha Law Minister Pratap Jena said that the state government was keeping a watch on the developments in the temple. Two complaints are reported to be filed by the priests and the police at the Singhdwara police station.