US-based Hindu group slams Jagannath temple priests

The priests created a ruckus just because an American entered the temple.
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Published on Mar 05, 2007 05:21 PM IST
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None | By, New York

A US-based Hindu reform organisation has criticised the destroying of huge quantities of food at the Jagannath temple in Orissa by the temple authorities because an American had entered the complex - an act seen as defiling the 12th century Hindu-only premises.

The Navya Shastra, an international Hindu reform organisation, said the act of the temple authorities had no vedic sanction.

"We are appalled to know about the mindless throwing away of large amounts of food by the Puri temple administration at the instigation of pujaris (priests) with a medieval mindset at a time and place where there are thousands of poor and hungry people," said the organisation's chairman, Dr Jaishree Gopal.

A 59-year-old American engineer from New York was thrown out of the temple complex last Thursday, fined, taken to a local police station and later released, despite his protestations that he was unaware of the temple's restrictions.

The Michigan-based Navya Shastra was founded in the United States in 2002. According to its website, the organisation stands against "...caste hierarchy and caste injustices, not only because they are not sanctioned in the Vedas, but also because they are morally wrong, unacceptable, and anachronistic in the world in which we live.

"Given the high levels of malnutrition among India's children, this act (throwing away food), assuredly without vedic sanction, must be deemed unacceptable," a press release by the organisation, said.

"The organisation is saddened and surprised that no Hindu leader of any consequence has protested this unconscionable and anachronistic behaviour. Instead of purifying the premises, the priests should seek to purify their own hearts and minds, and, along with other leaders, set a positive example for all devotees," said Dr Bala Aiyer, an advisor of the organisation said.

Foreigners are not allowed to enter leading Hindu temples in Orissa, including the Jagannath temple at Puri and the Lingaraj temple there.

An American Christian woman, Pamela K. Fleig, who converted to Hinduism after marrying an Indian from Uttar Pradesh, was denied entry into the 11th century Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar in 2005.

Thailand's Crown Princess Sirindhorn was also not given permission to visit the Jagannath temple in the same year, as she was a foreigner and Buddhist.

Even late prime minister Indira Gandhi - a born Hindu - was not allowed to enter the temple when she was in power because she had married a Parsi.

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