Criticised over the use of palanquins for his and his wife's visit to the Sri Jagannath temple in Puri, the Gajapati Maharaja of Puri Dibyasingh Deb on Sunday hit out at his detractors, saying he would never succumb to people who had "no religion to practice".
The issue had come into sharp focus ahead of his wife Maharani Lilabati Pattamahadei's much-hyped first visit to the shrine today as the royal couple were slated to travel the short distance in palanquins.
"I am prepared to abandon the century-old practice and tradition if the people of Orissa desire so. But I will not succumb to the dictates of those who have no religion to practice," he told reporters at his palace before the Maharani's procession towards the temple began.
The Gajapati Maharaja also offered to walk down the distance along with his wife instead of using the traditional palanquin "if the people of Orissa want it".
"Let the people decide how their Maharaja and Maharani will traverse to the temple while going to perform rituals," he said while appealing to all "not to belittle" the tradition which was set for the welfare of the people and their religion.
The Maharaja's reaction came in response to criticism from some quarters relating to the Maharani's maiden visit to the shrine. He said since the people of the state had "endorsed this practice", there was nothing to be worried.