Two persons, one of them an American, were on Tuesday detained at the Sri Jagannath temple here, where non-Hindus are not allowed entry, officials said.
Katie Leonard, a 23 year-old American student and her classmate Gourab Sarangi of Sambalpur, doing PhD in Physics in the U.S., entered the 12th century temple to catch a glimpse of the presiding deities.
As the U.S. student was dressed in traditional Indian attire and had covered her head, she was not recognised as a foreigner at the high-security Singhadwar, they said.
After a glimpse of the ‘Parswadevatas' (subsidiary deities), they proceeded inside for darshan of the presiding deities — Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra — where they were spotted by the priests.
The rituals at the temple came to a standstill after the priests and temple police took the tourists to the Singhadwar police station for questioning, the officials said.
Both pleaded ignorance of the restriction placed on non-Hindus in the temple.
“We didn't know the restrictions here, otherwise, we wouldn't have entered. We visited other pilgrim places, including the Samaleswari temple at Sambalpur, but did not face any problem,” Mr. Sarangi said.
Debi Prasad Panda, Administrator, Neeti (Rituals), of the temple said the two had entered the temple “unintentionally.”
After interrogation they would be handed over to the temple administration, which would let them off with a nominal fine for violating temple rules, police said.