400-year-old Odisha temple breaks tradition, allows men to touch deities

Kendrapara: For over four centuries, men were prohibited to touch the deities of a temple in coastal Odisha district of Kendrapara. However, the tradition was broken and men were allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum and even worship the deities.

The centuries-old custom was put in abeyance, for a day though. Reason: the presiding deities of Panchubarahi temple in Satabhaya under Rajnagar block in the district were relocated, as they faced the aggressive erosion due to rising sea levels, where men were allowed to touch the deities.

The five idols weighing around 1.5 tonnes were today shifted in a pompous procession amid religious chants, ululation, beating of cymbals and drums. The men participated with full enthusiasm as they were given the privilege for the first time as against the earlier ritual of only having darsan of the goddesses.

Post completion of the rituals, the deities embarked on a sea journey to the inland about 10 km away from the old location. Besides the new address of the temple, around 100 families too will be gradually shifted to Bagapatia by June this year.

The deities were reinstalled at the temple in newly-built Bagapatia colony.

“Our over 50-year-old demand has been fulfilled today. We are thrilled to see our goddesses shifting to a safer abode. At the same time we are heartbroken as we are leaving our ancestral property,” a villager expressed.

“I am happy that the centuries-old tradition is still alive today. It feels great to be a part of the religious event,” Raja Saheb of Kanika Shivendra Narayan Bhanja Deo said.

The priestesses from fishermen community took a break for the day and business at the new temple will be as usual from tomorrow after consecration rituals are over.

Notably, five of the seven villages in Satabhaya were engulfed by sea erosion owing which the district administration decided to relocate as many as 571 vulnerable families to a safer place.

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