Impasse in Odisha’s Jagannath temple continues, talks fail

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Mar 2:

The meeting between the Chhattisha Nijog (federation of servitor bodies of Shree Jagannath temple) and the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) held here today failed to resolve the impasse over preparation of Mahaprasad at the Lord Jagannath temple in Odisha’s Puri.

MahaprasadThe meeting could not arrive at any decision on the matter as Supakars (temple cooks) remained adamant against withdrawing their cease-work following arrest of a fellow servitor. The SJTA has sought five days to sort out the issue.

SJTA chief administrator and RDC Bikash Chandra Mohapatra, Puri collector Arvind Agarwal, SP Ashis Kumar Singh, Suresh Mohapatra, special officer, Nabakalebara and members the Chhatisa Nijog were present at the meeting.

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 Sunday 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.

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.

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