Controversies surround Jagannath Temple's entry rules
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"Only Orthodox Hindus are allowed," a signboard hanging from the Lion's Gate of Sri Jagannath Temple in Puri has triggered many a controversy in the past and continues to arouse strong feelings even today.
The latest such incident took place when an American national attempted to climb 'Nandighosh', the chariot of Lord Jagannath during the world famous 'Rath Yatra', the annual car festival of the deity, in June.
The American, identified as Noel Magee Hayden, was allegedly beaten up by temple security personnel and driven out of the chariot as he was not a born Hindu.
"This is injustice. When Sri Jagannath is considered as the Lord of the universe, how can anyone deny permission to my husband to climb the chariot like others?" his wife Silpi Boral, who hails from Odisha, asked.
While the police registered a case in this connection, the Shaknaracharya of Govardhan Peeth in Puri, Swami Nischalananda Saraswati also denounced the manner in which the foreigner was treated by security personnel.
"The foreigner could have been requested not to climb the chariot or enter the temple as he is not an orthodox Hindu. There is no justification in physically assaulting him," the Shankaracharya observed.
The assault of the American had reminded people of tales about how a number of dignitaries, including former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, had not been allowed to enter the 12th century shrine.
"In 1984, Indira Gandhi was not allowed to enter the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri because she had married a Parsi, Feroze Gandhi," pointed out a priest defending the ban on entry.
In 2005, the Queen of Thailand Mahachakri Siridharan was not allowed inside the temple as she was a follower of Buddhism.
In 2006, the shrine, whose ancestry goes back to the 12th century, also did not allow a citizen of Switzerland named Elizabeth Jigler, who had donated Rs 1.78 crore to the temple because she was a Christian.
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