In a new twist to the controversy over alleged manhandling of Italian born Odissi dancer Ileana Citaristi, the ‘Badagrahi’ (chief priest) of Lord Jagannath temple in Puri, Jagannath Swain Mohapatra, said on Thursday that from the next year foreigners would not be allowed to climb atop chariots of the deities.
“From the next year, we will not allow foreigners to board the chariots of the deities,” Swain Mohapatra said.
Referring to Citaristi’s allegations, he said it was a minor incident which was blown out of proportion. The customary offering and puja were going on when she climbed up the chariot and so she was only barred from going near the idol.
The chief priest’s comment comes a day after the police in Puri, about 60 km east of Bhubaneswar, served notice to him and ‘Daitapati Niyoga president (head of servitors) Ramkrushna Dasmohapatra to reply to alleged misbehaviour to Citaristi, a Padma Shri awardee, by two servitors atop Lord Jagannath’s chariot on July 21.
After the alleged incident, which has kicked off a row, Citaristi had lodged complaints with the temple administration and police.