Bhubaneswar, Jul 19: The statement of senior leader of the ruling BJD and Rajya Sabha MP Pyari Mohan Mohapatra in favour of the entry of foreigners in the Sri Jagannath Temple in Puri has sparked a furore with a local outfit staging an agitation before the 12th century shrine.
Mohapatra, considered as the chief advisor to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, had on Sunday told a meeting on tourism that there was nothing wrong in allowing foreigners to enter the temple in order to boost the state's tourism potential.
“If we allow foreigners to enter the temple, tourist flow to the state will be doubled,” the BJD MP had stated. Mohapatra told PTI , “I had said that allow entry of people belonging to all religions into the temple with a focus on tourism. I was not speaking at any religious convention, rather at a business meeting on the promotion of tourism”. Only tourism could help in providing employment to the local youths, he added.
The 12th century shrine does not allow non-Hindus into the temple. A sign board at the temple's Lion Gate clearly states: “Only Hindus are allowed”.
Angry over Mohapatra's statement, activists of Jagannath Sena in Puri staged a demonstration in front of the temple and burnt his effigy demanding withdrawal of the statement.
“How can Mohapatra make such a statement which hurts sentiments of crores of Hindus? He should withdraw it immediately,” said Jagannath Sena's chief Priyadarshi Patnaik. Sri Jagannath Temple priest Jagannath Swain Mohapatra said, “Pyari Babu should not have made such a statement.
It is better for him to withdraw the statement immediately”. Meanwhile, Assam Governor and former Orissa Chief Minister J B Patnaik, on July 5, had advocated for entry of ISKCON devotees into the temple. “The ISKCON devotees should not be prevented from the temple entry for being whites. They are Hindus and read the sacred ‘Bhagavat Gita' everyday and have set up a number of Jagannath Temples across the globe.”
Gajapati Maharaj of Puri King Dibyasingha Deb said,“The religious leaders, saints, spiritual persons should decide whether non-Hindus should be allowed into the temple.”PTI