Foreign tourists are always prohibited from entering this 12th century temple. But, Odisha Governor Ganeshilal said, ‘One may feel bad, but in my opinion tourists from abroad should have the right to enter this famous temple.’
However, temple servants, Jagannath Dham researchers and those closely associated with Jagannath Dham culture did not agree with the Governor. Most people think that it is inappropriate to break the rules of this traditional temple of 12th century.
Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple
Jagannath temple in Puri is one of the chardhams. Lord Jagannath is worshiped here as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. His elder brother Lord Balaram and sister Goddess Subhadra regularly worship with him. Only Hindus are allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the Puri temple.
A big signboard is placed in front of the temple gate. Where it is clearly mentioned, ‘Only Hindus allowed to enter’. Centuries after centuries this custom is being celebrated in this holy temple of Puri. However, no specific reason was ever given by the temple committee.
Why this tradition started in Puri?
According to some historians, this temple was attacked by Muslims several times in the past. Perhaps that is why the Sevayats banned Muslims from entering this Jagannath Dham. Again, according to many, the decision to bar entry to non-Hindus was made right from the time the temple was built. During the Rath Yatra, Lord Jagannathdev, the ruler of the world, was brought on the big danda along with Lord Balarama and Goddess Subhadra. At that time only non-Hindus were allowed to see the three Gods. On the day of Rath Yatra, the three Gods were taken to Masi’s house, Gundicha Temple. At this time devotees throng the Jagannath Dham in Puri.
However, Jagannath Dham devotees are strongly opposed to allowing non-Hindus and especially Muslim citizens to enter the temple throughout the year.
Jagannathdev is also known as Patitpavan by devotees. That is, he is the savior of the suffering people. The Sevaites believe that Jagannathdev also never gave any miraculous indication of allowing non-Hindus to enter the temple. So those who are not allowed to enter the temple due to religious reasons have to go back from Singha Duara.
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Even Indira Gandhi was not allowed to enter
- It is to be noted that in 1984, there was a great uproar in Puri. The then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was not allowed to enter the Puri temple that year. The Sevayats are said to have taken this decision because she had married a non-Hindu. From the Raghunandan library near the temple, pray to Jagannath and return.
- Again in November 2005, Princess Maha Srinidharn of Thailand visited Odisha for the first time. He visited the temple from outside. He was denied entry as a foreigner.
- In 2006, Swiss national Elisabeth Ziegler was not allowed to enter the temple. Because he is a Christian. Despite this, Elizabeth freely donated 1 crore 78 lakh rupees to the Puri temple.
- Payarimohan Mohapatra, advisor to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, made a proposal in 2011. He said, ‘Entry of non-Hindus in the temple may be allowed to further boost the tourism potential of Odisha.’ Controversy arose around his proposal across the state. Eventually, Payarimohan Mohapatra was forced to retract his statement.