Why ONLY Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs should be allowed entry into Puri Jagannath Temple

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  • Governments and courts must also realize that one, Sikhs-Buddhists-Jains are allowed entry into Jagannath temple because culturally and spiritually there is a lot ie common with Hindus.                              

The Jagannath Temple Puri is recently in the news after the Supreme Court took over its management and suggested that non-Hindus should also be allowed to enter the temple.

 

At the outset it must be said that today and earlier too the word Hindu includes those communities covered by the Hindu Marriage Act i.e. Hindus, Buddhist, Jains and Sikhs. Simply put the temple is open to followers of Dharma or Indian Religions.

 

Indian History

 

According to a respected scholar and author of Attack and Robberies on Jagannath Mandir, Dr Surendra Mishra (retired Research Officer in Sri Jagannath Sanskrit University, Puri) there were never any restrictions in Sanatana Dharma on entry of non-Hindus into Jagannatha Mandir Puri. The restriction started after repeated destruction of the temple by Muslim invaders.

 

Dr Mishra said that two prominent temples of India that were and continue to be revered across India were repeatedly looted and destroyed namely Somanatha in Gujarat and Jagannatha in Puri.

 

For the record Somanatha temple was looted and destroyed seventeen times for eg by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1026, by Alauddin Khilji’s Chief Afzal Khan in 1298 and Muzaffar 1395 who burnt the temple and broke the idol. 

 

Likewise the Jagannath Temple Puri was invaded 18 times. For the record the first Muslim invasion was waged by Illlias Shah the Sultan of Bengal in 1340. Firuz Shah demolished the temple of Jagannatha and desecrated the images around 1360. Sultan Husain Shah of Bengal captured Puri in 1509 and destroyed the idols in Jaganatha Temple. The fifteenth invasion was waged by Amir Fateh Khan in 1647.

 

Every such raid resulted in destruction, loot and damage to the deities of Puri. During various attacks the deities were hidden at distant places or shifted from one place to another.

 

Also readInvasions of the Temple of Lord Jagannath, Puri

 

Author of the above article Abhimanyu Dash, Lecturer in History at the Surajmahal Saha Mahavidyala Puri, wrote, “The most significant feature in the history of invasion on the great temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri that in no case the ‘Brahma’ of the deities were destroyed which continued till today. The servitors played an important role in safeguarding the triad at the time of danger. The Kings have taken care of the temple from destruction by surrendering before the invaders. The people of Puri have suffered but kept the temple safe.”

 

With the advent of Maratha rule over Orissa (now Odisha) about 1751, its Dewan Bahadur Khan wrote to King Birakishore Deva that no attack on the Jagannatha temple would take place under Maratha rule.

 

Also read: When Lord Jagannath witnessed the great Maratha devotion

 

The pain caused by repeated destruction, loot and efforts by the people of Orissa to save the temple of Lord Jagannath have become part of the collective consciousness of the people of India, more so of the people of Puri. At the same time there is an inherent pride and happiness that their ancestors did not allow a mosque to be constructed on temple site as is the case at Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura.

 

Entry Barrier To Non-Hindus 

 

Inspite of repeated destruction of the temple of Jagannath, starting 1340, Muslims were allowed entry into the temple till 1620 says Dr Mishra. Inspite of that Muslim invasions and loot did not stop. It was then that entry into temple was restricted to Hindus meaning Hindus, Buddhist, Jains and Sikhs. This closure to Muslims was effective June 1, 1660 says Dr Mishra.

 

Entry Restricted To Orthodox Hindus

 

According to Dr Mishra, the British as part of their divide and rule policy, put a board outside temple that read ‘Only Orthodox Hindus allowed’. Unfortunately this board continues to exist. Practically speaking the temple today allows entry to Hindus of all communities, Buddhist, Jains and Sikhs. Note that ISKCON devotees (including foreigners) who are not Hindu by birth are not allowed entry into the temple.  

 

Gurudwara in Puri 

 

Guru Nanak Ji visited Puri twice. Once in 1508 and again in 1510 when he eventually could meet Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. From Puri Nanak left for Sri Lanka via Rameshwaram.

 

Just to jog your memory one of the ‘Panch Pyare or Five Beloved Ones’ who were baptised by Guru Govind Singhji on March 30, 1699 was from Puri. His name was Himmat Chand Kahar later renamed as Bhai Himat Singh Ji. 

 

Bhai Almast, a notable Udasi preacher of the 17th century built Mangumath Ashram now called Mangumath Gurudwara. The great saint of Orissa and lyric poet Bhagat Jaidev finds a place of eminence for his hymns in the Guru Granth Sahib.” 

So, can Muslims and Christians offer their respects to the deities of Jagannath Mandir?

Yes they can, but only once a year during the annual Rath Yatra.

Why should tradition of not allowing Muslims and Christians in Jagannath Mandir continue?

Historically the decision to stop Muslims from entering the temple was due to destruction caused by Muslim invasions.

Has the situation changed today? Not really! More than 50,000 soldiers protect Hindus during the annual Amarnath Yatra. Such arrangements are not required when Muslims visit Ajmer Sharif.

Further prominent Hindu temples continue to be guarded like fortresses for eg Somnath, Akshadham Gandhinagar, Vaishnudevi and Krishna Janmabhoomi amongst others not to forget the Muslim community’s refusal to hand over the holy sites of Kashi, Mathura and Ayodhya to the Hindus. Till that happens the wounds caused by destruction of temples by Muslim invaders shall continue to fester.

It is not to imply that all Muslims who visit Hindu temples will cause destruction. That would be mischievous and wrong to say. However, the sentiments of the people of Odisha, larger Hindu community and the ground reality of temples being under constant threat make it imperative for the existing tradition to continue.

This New Indian Express report of July 8 says, “Manoj Rath, spokesperson of Gobardhan Pitha, the seat of Puri Shankaracharya Nischalananda Saraswati, said the decision of the seer is final on the issue. Quoting an earlier letter of the seer on the issue, Rath said the Shankaracharya had clearly mentioned that any deviation in the tradition of Jagannath temple in relation to entry of non-Hindus was not acceptable. On abolition of hereditary rights of servitors, he said the puja of every deity in the temple is conducted every day as per Shashtras. Any deviation would harm the divinity, Rath added.

Courts are not trained to know and appreciate the importance of religious practices and must stop interfering in Hindu traditions.

Governments and courts must also realize that Sikhs-Buddhists-Jains are allowed entry into Jagannath temple because culturally and spiritually there is a lot ie common with Hindus.

Also read: What is common to various schools of Indian Philosophy

Also read: India only home of the Followers of Dharma

Like any other organization management of the Jagannath Temple offers scope for improvement and reform. Let the Hindu community reform itself.

In a secular state it is inappropriate for the government or courts to interfere in the management of places of worship of the majority community. If they insists on doing so then the Courts and State must be involved in managing affairs of all communities and ensure that devotee donations made in temples, mosque, churches, gurudwaras, monasteries come to the State Treasury, like it is in the case of South Indian temples today. 

 

References

1 Written by Dr Surendra Mishra and translated into English as ‘Attack and Robberies on Jagannath Mandir’ by Shantanu Mitra.  

2 Volume 6 History and Culture of Indian People published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan.

Also see pictures of

1. Rath Yatra Puri

2 Sun Temple Konarak

3 Chilika Lake where the deities were kept many times to save them from invaders