The Phailin fear did not discourage the servitors of Jagannath temple from performing rituals on Saturday. Braving squally winds and downpour, the priests reached the 12 th century shrine early morning and solemnized the daily rituals.
However, unlike other days the temple witnessed very poor footfall of devotees. While around 30,000 pilgrims visit the shrine on a normal day, the arrival of devotees stood at only around 150 on Saturday. “The devotees, residing around the temple visited the temple. Not a single tourist from outside came to the temple because of cyclone,” said temple’s public relations officer Laxmidhar Pujapanda.
Priests said they offered special prayer and invoked the deities to save the state from cyclone. “The cyclone is imminent. But we prayed the Lord to save the state,” said Bhagi Pujapanda, a servitor. “During the 1999 super cyclone, Puri was forecasted to be the worst-hit. But Lord Jagannath saved us,” Pujapanda said.
Jagannath Sena, a Puri-based social cultural outfit, offered a puja at the temple on Friday night to reduce the impact of the cyclone. Some devotees, who visited the temple early morning said the state can only be saved due to divine intervention. “I come to temple every morning. My son was not willing to allow me to go to the shrine as the wind was blowing heavily. But I did not listen to him. I have full faith on the almighty,” said Saraswati Satpathy, a 56-year-old woman of Dolamandap Sahi.
Puri temple’s last surviving Debadasi, Sashimani (87), considered as the wife of Lord Jagannath, solemnized a Puja on Saturday at her house, a stone’s throw from the temple. “I tried a lot to visit the temple. But my ailing health did not support me,” she said.
Meanwhile, all eyes are on the velocity of the cyclonic storm that might cause damage to the structure of the 12th century shrine. “Recently a few stones tumbled from the shrine due to poor maintenance. The archeological survey of India should have conducted inspection of the weak portions of the temple,” said Jogendra Dasmohapatra.
Temple officials said there is no threat to the shrine from cyclone Phailin. “Storms and wind have so far not damaged the temple. But often the temple’s flag, hoisted atop the pinnacle, gets snapped,” PRO Pujapanda said.
by Debabrata Mohapatra