Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Mar 1:
Shree Mandir Suar Mahasuar Nijog (servitor body of temple cooks) of Shree Jagannath temple in Odisha’s Puri has threatened to stop cooking of Mahaprasad from Monday to protest against the arrest of a servitor.
The Nijog has served a notice to the temple administration in this regard and the Chhattisha Nijog (federation of servitor bodies of Shree Jagannath temple) has supported the Suar Mahasuar Nijog’s move.
The Nijog members resorted to cease-work 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 a directive by the temple administration that Mahaprasad can only be sold at the Ananda Bazaar.
Lord Jagannath and his siblings had remained without food for nearly six hours on Saturday due to the Nijog’s cease-work.
On Friday, members of temple administration found Pratihari selling the Mahaprasad at the Bhitara Bedha and informed the Lion’s Gate police who arrested and forwarded him to court.
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.
What irked the servitors more was that despite SJTA chief administrator being present at Puri did not intervene to resolve the issue, said sources.
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.
The Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) PRO Laxmidhar Pujapanda said the temple administration will soon discuss the issue with the Suar Mahasuar Nijog.
Chittaranjan Mohanty, a devotee, had recently moved the Odisha High Court for streamlining sale of Mahaprasad.
The temple administration, in order to streamline sale of Mahaprasad, later decided to identify vendors and allot them space at Ananda Bazaar.
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.
Though the temple administration had ordered for sale of Mahaprasad confined to the Anand Bazaar only, it was 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.
The administration has decided to identify vendors and allot them space at Ananda Bazaar.
Interestingly, the administration currently has no data on the vendors, sources said.