Puri: The traditions and rituals at Srimandir, the abode of Lord Jagannath and his siblings Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra, are unique among the shrines of across the country.
However, issues related to reform measures for the 12th century shrine have already reached the Supreme Court of India. While taking up the case, the apex court expressed its desire to know the rituals, traditions, administrative set-ups and devotee-centric arrangements at some other famous shrines in the country.
Acting upon the SC instruction, the state government had formed a three-member committee to study the affairs of other shrines and submit recommendations for improving administrative system and devotee-centric facilities at Srimandir.
The committee comprising former chief administrator of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) Suresh Chandra Mahapatra, Inspector General of police Soumendra Priyadarshi and Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee member Mahimohan Tripathy has submitted its recommendations to the state government. The recommendations have been placed before the SC in an affidavit filed by the state government.
Some of the significant recommendations of the committee are:
The panel has put emphasis on queue system at Srimandir for seamless entry of devotees to the shrine. It has also supported paid ‘darshan’ (ticket system) for certain periods in the morning and evening. People with tickets would enter Srimandir in separate queues. The three-member committee has suggested introduction of registration system for devotees for more efficient crowd management during festivals.
Some servitors usually distribute basil, one of the important offerings to Lord Jagannath, among devotees at the main temple of Srimandir. The panel has pleaded for scrapping of the practice. As per the recommendation, servitors can distribute basil among devotees near the Muktimandap on Srimandir premises.
A proposal for direct management of Srimandir kitchen by the SJTA has found support from the panel. The committee has proposed that the SJTA should sign agreements with Suar and Mahasuar servitors for selling of Mahaprasad at Anandbazar of the shrine. It has pleaded for construction of a large dining hall for devotees outside the North Gate of Srimandir and framing of rules for maintenance of hygiene and cleanliness at temple kitchen and Anandbazar, the designated place for Mahaprasad sale. The recommendations asked the SJTA to examine the quality of rice, dal and vegetables used for the preparation of Mahaprasad.
The panel asked the SJTA to regulate the sale and purchase of dry Prasad on the shrine precincts. “Only Suar servitors can be allowed to sell dry Prasad at Anandbazar,” said the committee in its recommendations.
The panel has pleaded for installation of additional donation boxes (hundis) outside the main temple. It has also recommended that SJTA manage some important places like Kalpabata, Rohinikunda and Koilibaikuntha itself without auctioning them to private parties. The temple administration has also been advised to manage the stalls selling earthen lamps on Srimandir premises.
The panel has asked the district administration and the SJTA to remove all beggars and alms seekers from the 12th century shrines. “People interested to donate food to Brahmins can deposit the money with the SJTA. The temple administration can feed Brahmins outside Srimandir,” said the recommendations.
The panel has also recommended licence system for Yatreepandas (priests who guide devotees).
To provide a pleasant visit, the committee has pleaded for more open space around Srimandir. It has suggested to the state government to acquire land for the purpose. Notably, the state government had beautified the surroundings of Srimandir during the Nabakalebara festival in 2015 by spending around Rs 30 crore.
To provide boarding facilities to devotees, the committee has recommended setting up of a few night shelters near the shrine. “The SJTA should construct night shelter facilities for at least 10,000 devotees by acquiring land from nearby mutts,” said the recommendations.
The state government has also been asked to expedite sale of Srimandir land and to deposit the amount in a corpus fund. Notably, the temple owns 60,000 acre land in Odisha and other states. However, the state government and SJTA are yet to register all these landed properties in the name of Lord Jagannath.
The committee has favoured changes in the administrative set-up and police system in the Holy City by accepting the recommendations of Justice BP Das commission. It has asked the SJTA to appoint well-trained people to provide better facilities to devotees. As many as 200 of the 500 sanctioned posts at the SJTA office are lying vacant.
Hemant Kumar Nayak, OP
Hereditary service at Srimandir only
The panel on the instruction of the Supreme Court visited Vaishno Devi Temple in Jammu & Kashmir, Golden Temple in Punjab, Manjunatha Swamy Temple in Karnataka and Balaji Temple in Andhra Pradesh and found that they do not have the hereditary system for servitors as in vogue at Srimandir. Orissa POST takes a look at the way these shrines are managed vis-a-vis Srimandir.
Vaishno Devi Temple: The J&K government has been managing the temple affairs since 1988. Around 25,000 devotees throng the shrine every day and during festivals the number shoots up to 50,000. There are separate queues for Army, VIPs and general public before one reaches the cave, but only one queue inside the cave. Devotees can do registration and avail passes for free. A maximum 50,000 passes are allowed per day. Affordable boarding, toilet, cloakroom, healthcare facility, battery-run vehicle and choppers for darshan are the USPs of the shrine. The Temple Board has set up Sanskrit Gurukul and a sports complex. There are 300 regular and 1,000 contractual workers engaged in the shrine. Also, 300 ex-servicemen have been engaged for assisting the pilgrims. Significantly, there is no system of donation or collection of alms at the temple. Pilgrims put their donation in box (hundi) installed outside the shrine. Priests are appointed through recruitment process.
Balaji Temple: The temple is governed by Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam Trust under 1987 Act, which had abolished the hereditary right of the servitors to perform rituals. About 50 salaried servitors are engaged at the shrine. About 70,000 devotees visit the shrine daily and during festivities or vacations the number touches around 90,000. Devotees can have darshan for 20 hours a day and rituals are performed for four hours. However, one can have darshan with and without payment. Ticketed darshan (Rs 300 and Rs 500) continues for three hours and a maximum of 25,000 tickets are sold per day. Likewise, one can have darshan for free which continues for three hours. About 40,000 devotees have free darshan every day. A maximum of 3,000 VIPs can have darshan on a specified time slot in the morning. Devotees in queues are served drinking water, toilet and food for free. Food for about 1.5 lakh people is prepared by the trust daily for which a corpus fund has been created. Devotees can avail boarding facility at affordable prices. There are 8,000 regular and 14,000 contractual employees apart from 3,000 registered volunteers. Two wings – vigilance and security – are functioning to maintain law and order and ensure security of devotees under the supervision of an IPS officer.
Golden Temple: The temple, which is managed by Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), is accessible to people irrespective of caste, creed and religion. Darshan is available for 20 hours and around 1 lakh people flock to the shrine every day. There are four/five queues for darshan. Granthis and Jathedars are appointed as per their qualification. Food for about 1 lakh devotees is prepared at the shrine every day. Visitors can avail affordable boarding at the shrine. Unlike other shrines, employees of the temple are rested with the responsibility of security of devotees and the shrine which is under CCTV surveillance. The SGPC runs 43 schools and colleges, two universities, two medical colleges and as many engineering colleges. The Punjab government does not interfere in the temple affairs. Donation is collected through hundis.
Manjunatha Swamy Temple: The Hegde family has been at the helm of temple affairs here for about 800 years. About 15,000 to 20,000 visitors throng the shrine in queues every day. Devotees can avail food and lodging facilities at affordable prices. Instead of hereditary system, servitors are appointed as per their qualification. They perform rituals in turns, usually of 10 days. The Dharmasthala Trust runs 23 educational institutions. The trust board, which has engaged about 3,000 regular employees, takes care of the
security at the shrine without any police system.
And at the Srimandir…
Around 2,200 servitors of 100 categories are engaged at Srimandir to conduct the very many rituals of the deities. Hereditary system of servitors is prevalent in Srmandir as per the Record of Rights (RoR) of the shrine. Around 30 lakh devotees visit the Pilgrim City during the 15-day annual Rath Yatra. Mahaprasad is prepared using 250 hearths at the Roshaghara (kitchen) of the temple every day. Darshan of the deities is facilitated through Bhitara katha (inner barricade) and Bahara katha (outer barricade) of the shrine. The daily duration of darshan is 12 hours, but sometimes darshan is halted due to several rituals. About 70,000 devotees visit the shrine every day. On occasions like Kartik Purnima, Panchaka and New Year’s Day the number notches up to 3 to 5 lakh.
Pradeep Kishor Sahu, OP