In a significant decision, the Odisha government on Wednesday said devotees would not be allowed to climb the chariots of Lord Balabhadra, Lord Jagannath and Devi Subhadra on Rath Yatra day.
“The devotees will not be allowed to climb the chariots. The Daitapati priests of the 12th century shrine have agreed to the proposal of the State government,” Law Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo told reporters after a three–hour discussion with the priests here at the Secretariat.
Earlier, the Daitapati priests were opposed to the idea of putting any restriction on devotees climbing the chariots of Lord Jagannath.
“The Daitapatis have agreed to the proposal to bar devotees from mounting the chariots, not just on Rath Yatra day, but also on Bahuda Yatra [festival during the chariots’ return journey] and Suna Besha [golden attire],” the Minister said.
On the controversial issue of devotees touching the deities on chariots, the Minister said: “It is a highly sensitive issue and needs wider consultation with all stakeholders.”
“We have accepted the State government’s proposal of not allowing the devotees to climb chariots on three days — Rath Yatra day, Bahuda and Suna Vesha from the security point of view. But the practice of devotees mounting chariots after they reach the destination will continue,” said Ramakrushna Mohapatra, the leader of the Daitapati Nijog.
He said they accepted the State government proposal in view of the suspected terrorist threat to the Lord’s festival.
The Shankaracharya of Puri, Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, had earlier recommended to the Sri Jagannath Temple Managing Committee, headed by Puri King Gajapati Divyasingha Deb, to ban devotees from climbing the chariots and touching the deities.
“Climbing chariots and touching the deities was against the Hindu religion. It is a sin,” the Shankaracharya had said.