From next year, foreigners would not be allowed to climb on the chariot of Lord Jagannath in Puri, the temple authorities have decreed. Coming in the wake of allegations of manhandling from Italian-born Odissi exponent Ileana Citaristi, the new rule is expected to stir up further controversy.
Rath Yatra had always been marked by a special democracy in Puri. While only Hindus are allowed inside the temple, people of all faiths can approach the deity when he is stationed in the Rath. Citaristi’s allegations that she was manhandled by the servitors when she refused to pay them R1000 for the darshan.
Jagannath Swain Mohapatra, who made the announcement on Thursday, played down the allegations. “She was only barred from going near the idol as a puja was on when she climbed the chariot. It was a minor incident which was blown out of proportion,” he said.