You do not have to be of a particular gender, caste, religion or community to enter the Jagannath temple at Kuansh village in Bhadrak district. All you need is faith.
On Kartika Purnima, the village temple saw a crowd almost as big as the one at the more famous Jagannath temple in Puri. Nearly 5,000 devotees belonging to different castes and communities entered its sanctum sanctorum to perform the parikrama and offer flowers at the feet of the Lord.
This unique temple is the brainchild of Los Angeles resident Julian Parkar. Parkar — who has converted to Hinduism — has been living in Bhadrak for the last 12 years and spent Rs 26 lakh to build the temple. Devotees can enter the sanctum sanctorum every full moon day. Parkar even offers free diyas and flowers to devotees.
Parkar's initiative comes in the wake of Dalits being denied entry into a Jagannath temple by upper castes at Keraragard village in Kendrapara district and is an effort at bringing about an egalitarian temple entry system. "In recent weeks, we have witnessed devotees being discriminated against on the basis of caste and religion at several Jagannath temples in Orissa. In response to this, we deemed it imperative to invite people from different castes and communities to enter our Jagannath temple and worship the Lord as equal human beings," said Parkar.
Of the 5,000 devotees who thronged the temple on Kartika Purnima, nearly 1,000 were Dalits. Parker does not stop here. Next year, he plans to organise a ‘rath yatra’ in Kuansh village. Also coming up is a second temple of Lord Jagannath in Bhadrak, which is likely to cost him nearly Rs 3 crore.