Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Mar 2:
The devotees who are on a pilgrimage to have a glimpse of the Lords at Shree Jagannath temple in Odisha’s Puri town were deprived of Mahaprasad as the Supakars (temple cooks) went on a cease-work from today protesting against the arrest of a fellow servitor.
The temple administration, despite its persistent efforts for the whole day on Sunday, failed to do resolve the issue.
The Lords too had to content themselves with the sakal dhupa commonly known as Kotha Bhoga or Raja Bhoga. The Suar Mahasuar Nijog (servitor body of temple cooks) of the Shree Jagannath temple has stopped cooking of Mahaprasad from today. The servitor body at its meeting yesterday also decided to stop preparation and sale of sukhila bhoga (confectionaries) apart from Anna Mahaparasad (Rice meal).
The members of the Nijog are agitating in protest against arrest of a servitor, Padmanava Pratihari, who was found selling ‘Mahaprasad’ in the bhitara bedha outside the Ananda Bazaar (place meant for selling of Mahaprasad) located inside the temple premises on Friday in violation of the directive by the temple administration that Mahaprasad can only be sold at the Ananda Bazaar.
The Suar Mahasuar Nijog, which had served a notice to the temple administration in this regard, is supported by the Chhattisha Nijog (federation of servitor bodies of Shree Jagannath temple).
It may be mentioned that Lord Jagannath and his siblings had remained without food for nearly six hours on Saturday due to the Nijog’s cease-work.
After Sahana Mela (public darshan) on Saturday morning, the Suar and Mahasuars did not allow Rosha Homa (a ritual that is carried out before cooking) to be performed.
As a result, Ballav (breakfast) and other rituals including lunch for the deities could not be prepared.
It was only after Pratihari was released on bail, the servitors allowed ‘Rosha Homa’ at 3.45 pm. The breakfast and lunch were offered to the deities at 6.20 pm.
Around 50 Nijog members cook Mahaprasad at the temple every day. The shrine kitchen, which prepares Mahaprasad for over 10,000 people on a given day, is considered the biggest temple kitchen in the country.
Chittaranjan Mohanty, a devotee, had recently moved the Odisha High Court for streamlining sale of Mahaprasad.
The petitioner had alleged that non-sevayats were allegedly selling Mahaprasad near Bhitara Bedha close to Ananda Bazaar which created problems for devotees while moving around the temple.
The temple administration’s order for sale of Mahaprasad at the Anand Bazaar only, is being vehemently resented by the servitors who said that they had been selling Mahaprasad at the Ananda Bazaar for ages, narrowing of space within the Ananda Bazaar by the administration has forced them to spill over into the Bhitara Bedha.
“Sale of Mahaprasad other than in Anand Bazaar has been prohibited in accordance with High Court directives. A Justice of the honourable High Court, during his recent visit to the temple had seen the servitor selling Mahaprasad in the bhitara bedha area of the temple. As he informed the matter to the temple administration, the servitor was arrested and his Mahaprasad seized. We are trying our best to resolve the issue through discussions. Everything will be all right”, Puri collector Arvind Agarwal told the media today.