Agnivesh Kicks off Storm at Puri


Dec 27, JAGANNATHA PURI, ORISSA Oops…Swami Agnivesh did it again, much to the chagrin of Jagannath Temple priests. The Arya Samaj President invited the wrath of the Puri priests over a remark he made on Saturday at Bhubaneswar, that the gate of Puri Jagannath Temple should be thrown open for non-Hindus as well.

Airing their anguish on Agnivesh, the incensed priests, under the aegis of Sri Jagannath Sebayat Sammilani, squatted right in front of the Jagannath Temple on Tuesday and burnt his effigy.

This is not the first time Agnivesh enraged the priests of the 12th century shrine, which is out of bounds for the non-Hindus. Earlier in December, 2005 he had made similar provocative comments. Agnivesh’s statement came at a time when the priests are boiling over the issue of ISKCON's supposedly unseasonal Rath Yatra being celebrated at different places.

“Agnivesh’s remark is purely anti-Hindu in nature. This is shocking that being a Hindu religious leader, Agnivesh uttered such inflammatory words. He is trying to play with the emotions of Hindus and take political mileage of this,” said Harekrushna Mahasuar, the Sammilani’s general secretary.

“Perhaps Agnivesh is not aware of the age-old tradition and culture of Jagannath Temple. His statement has come as a blow to the traditional procedure of the temple, which allows only Hindus to enter into its precinct. We will not tolerate if people other than Hindu religion are given a nod to enter into the temple,” said Mahasuar.

Notably, there has been much hue and cry over the category of Hindus to be allowed into Jagannath Temple after some Hindu pilgrims, ISKCON devotees from Indonesia, were thrown out of Jagannath temple by priests on two occasions in recent past.

Swami Agnivesh’s remark has created a faction within the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. VHP’s state working president (in charge of eastern religion) Umesh Patri, who is also the state vice-president of Arya Samaj rallied for Agnivesh. “If Jagannath is venerated as the Lord of the universe, then pilgrims of all religion should be allowed into the Jagannath temple,” Patri said.

Slamming his colleague, VHP’s state general secretary Gouri Sankar Rath said that the Parishad has been showing respect to the Jagannath Temple’s convention of allowing only Hindus into its precinct. “Even VHP has declared many times before, that non-Hindus must not be allowed into the Jagannath Temple. So we will not tolerate Agnivesh’s remark that hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus,” Rath said.

“We will not allow Agnivesh to enter Jagannath Temple as his remarks sounds fishy. He will face stiff opposition from priests when he visits Puri,” said Jogendra Dasmohapatra, a temple priest.

Meanwhile, Puri collector and Jagannath Temple deputy chief administrator Rashmi Ranjan Pattnaik said the shrine administration will warn Agnivesh not to make any inflammatory remarks against the Hindus. “His remarks have been creating resentment among priests. We will send him a warning letter,” Pattnaik said.


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