The Gajapati king of Puri, Dibyasingha Deb, on Monday expressed his deep shock and anguish over the non-participation of the Shankaracharya of Goverdhan Peeth Swami Nischalananda Saraswati in the Rath Yatra festival on Sunday as the government put restrictions on the seer’s right to climb the chariots and perform puja.

“I’m pained that Jagadguru Sankaracharya could not perform his traditional rituals on the chariots. He is the religious guru of the Hindus. The letter issued by the state government putting restriction on his rights to perform puja atop the chariots is unjust. Neither the state government nor the Sri Jagannath Temple administration has got any authority to infringe upon his religious rights,” the king, who is regarded as the first servitor of Lord Jagannath, said.

The king clarified that when Sankaracharya himself had informed that the temple administration that he would climb the chariots with only two of his disciples, it was a “disrespect” to ask him to come alone.

Temple Committee to Discuss Gajapati’s Letter

The absence of Jagadguru Shankaracharya on the chariots during the Rath Yatra this year and the letter written in this regard by the Gajapati Maharaja of Puri will be discussed at the next meeting of the Jagannath temple committee, chief administrator of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) Arabinda Padhi said here today.

Emerging out of a meeting with chief secretary Jugal Kishore Mohapatra at the state secretariat here, Padhi said all issues would be discussed threadbare and an amicable solution found at the next meeting of the temple committee. The Gajapati Maharaja himself is the head of the committee, he pointed out.

The temple administrator said everything possible would be done to preserve the majesty and sanctity of religious institutions and traditions.

Padhi said he and Suresh Mohapatra, the special officer appointed by the Odisha government for smooth conduct of the Rath Yatra, briefed the chief secretary on the measures taken to ensure that rituals associated with the nine-day festival are conducted without any hassles.

Puri King Defends Shankaracharya
Pained over Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati not performing puja on chariots due to a dispute with the Sri Jagannath Temple Administration, king of Puri Divyasingha Deb today said the Odisha government must take steps to resolve the issue.

“Both the state government and the SJTA should make efforts to ensure the traditional role of the seer is kept intact. I hope that they facilitate the traditional rituals performed by the Shankaracharya on the chariots,” Deb said.

The Shankaracharya yesterday boycotted the rath jatra while protesting the SJTA’s letter which restricted him to climbing the chariot without any of his disciples.

“Even as the Sankaracharya had himself decided to take only two of his disciples to chariots this year, the administration insisted that he go alone. As per practice, the seer used to be accompanied by seven persons in the past,” Deb said.

“The SJTA took the decision of putting restrictions on the Shankaracharya without consulting him.” As per the tradition, Sankaracharya was the first to have darshan of the deities on the chariots every year on the Rath Jatra Day before the king of Puri performed the ‘Chhera Pahanra’ or the ceremonial sweeping of chariots.

Meanwhile, the RSS and the VHP reacted sharply against the ‘humiliation’ of the seer and the institution of Shankaracharya, and threatened to launch an agitation unless the state government apologised to the seer.

Even the Daitapati Nijog, which was opposed to Shankaracharya’s view of banning devotees climbing the chariots, also disapproved the break in tradition.