Other States

Odisha temple priests to resort to unusual protest

The unusual decision to bang gongs or ring bells in front of all temples across Odisha on Wednesday as a mark of protest against non-opening of temples may make the State government see red. But, by doing so, priests across the State would be venting their anguish.

Ask Bhabani Shankar Mishra (54), a priest at Balunkeswar Temple at Dandamukundapur in Puri district, why he would bang gongs and ring bell which is not part of any worshipping.

“Since March 22, I have been confined to my home. The income has since dried up. Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, I used to earn from the donation of devotees. My family did not face any food shortage as the monthly income of around ₹10,000 was enough,” said Mr. Mishra.

During past eight months, the priest’s family has already exhausted the little savings they had and also borrowed from their relatives. His family members have meanwhile resorted to making brooms and selling them in market.

In Mayurbhanj district, Kameswar Tripathy, who heads the Odisha Mandir Sevayat Sangh — a priests’ body, also works as a priest in Jagannath Temple at Baripada.

“The situation is worsening every passing day. I usually earn ₹50,000 during Rath Yatra celebration. The lockdown snatched my major income of the year,” said Mr. Tripathy.

August and September mark beginning of festival seasons in Odisha. Apart from regular income from temples, priests are called to homes for Pujas. With fear of pandemic reigning, devotees have postponed the rituals to next year.

‘Open with guidelines’

Urging the government to take immediate steps to open temple in accordance with COVID-19 guideline, Janardan Pattajoshi Mohapatra, head of Chhatisa Nijog, a sevayats’ body in Jagannath Temple, Puri, said, “priests are in acute financial crunch. Only opening of temple will solve the crisis. Once devotees start flocking temples, the economy around the religious institutions would get back to normalcy.”

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 10:30:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/odisha-temple-priests-to-resort-to-unusual-protest/article32947907.ece

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