Nov 7, JAGANNATHA PURI, ORISSA — Three Indonesia-based ISKCON devotees, including two women, on Wednesday, November 7 were driven out of the Jagannath Temple by a group of priests who alleged that the three were non-Hindus. The three were spotted during 'Mangala Aarti'. However the devotees, who were detained by the police for their ‘religion’ verification for nearly 20 minutes, were set free after it was confirmed that they were Hindus.
“The three were born-Hindus. They were not even converted Hindus. This was confirmed after verifying their identity cards provided by Indonesia government. We even browsed through their passports to substantiate their claim of being Hindus,” said Jagannath Temple inspector, Gyan Ranjan Mohapatra.
The three Indonesian pilgrims from Bali in Indonesia, Kadambari (passport name, I Gusti Made Krisiasis), Rupadeep Draupadi (passport name, Adrasina Tese Asa) and Arjun Putra das (passport name, I Made Arjana), ran into trouble when some priests noticed them near the temple’s sanctum sanctorum and queried them about their identity and religion. The three were accompanied by Mahabahu das, an Oriya-speaking devotee from the ISKCON temple at Bhubaneswar.
“Things went against the favour of the devotees because Mahabahu das, who brought the three into the temple, fumbled before the priests in giving any sort of clarification about the three Indonesia-based pilgrims’ religion. The priests then handed over the three devotees to police for verification,” Mohapatra said. Asked, the devotees, who are disciples of a Manipur-based guru, informed that they were not heckled or booed by any priests in the temple.
Meanwhile, the three devotees also maintained that they were original Hindus, not converted ones. “We are born and original Hindus. Though we have come to the Puri Jagannath Temple for first time, our ancestors were frequent visitors to the twelfth century shrine,” said Kadambari, who could also utter a few lines in Hindi.
“Ours is a rich history having links with Orissa and Jagannath Temple at Puri. The annual Kalinga Bali Yatra at Cuttack in Orissa has got its name from Bali in Indonesia. Majority inhabitants in Bali are Hindus and they have been coming here very often,” remarked Kadambari.
“We have a big Jagannath temple in Bali. The Gajapati Maharajas of Puri had visited our temple many a time before. The then Kings here only invited the Hindus at Bali to visit Jagannath temple at Puri,” said Draupadi.
“It is a very horrible experience for us. Despite being Hindus, we were humiliated by priests and had to face police inquiry and media glare,” Draupadi rued.
But the priests were not ready to buy the police story and claims of the devotees. “They are foreigners. We do not believe in their identity cards. We doubt their religion. Security in the temple should be tightened and the three should be fined for flouting the temple rules,” said Damodar Mahasuar, a temple priest.
The temple inspector ruled out any tension inside the temple. “There is no tension or resentment among priests. The rituals went on smoothly,” Mohapatra said.