Thursday’s meeting of Sankaracharya Nischalananda Saraswati, Gajapati Dibyasingh Deb, senior temple officials and priests at Puri to iron out the issue remained inconclusive. An American pilgrim was allegedly assaulted while trying to climb the chariot of Lord Jagannath last year.
“Since it is a religious matter, we have referred the matter to Puri Sankaracharya, who is consulting servitors and religious scholars. The Sankaracharya will take the decision,” said Jagannath temple’s chief administrator Arvind Padhee.
Padhee said the religious scriptures related to Lord Jagannath are unclear. “The scripture only says pilgrims can have darshan of the deities. But no where it has been mentioned whether one can climb atop the chariot or touch the deities,” Padhee said.
Shrine servitors, who are opposed to non-Hindus climbing onto the chariots, said they would consult their colleagues and submit their views to the Sankaracharya. “We will discuss the matter with other members of our Nijog (servitors’ group),” said Prema Dasmohapatra, a senior servitor of Daitapati Nijog.
While non-Hidus are denied entry into the 12th century Jagannath, the assault on an American tourist atop a chariot on second day of Rath Yatra last year kicked up a debate whether foreigners should be allowed to climb the chariots.
The tourist, Noel Magee Hayden, was allegedly beaten up by Jagannath Temple Police (JTP), a dedicated security force of Jagannath temple, when he along with his Odia wife was trying to climb Lord Jagannath’s chariot on June 22. He had lodged a complaint against the JTP personnel at Kumbharapada police station.