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Foreign trip may cost Udupi pontiff ascension

Wednesday, 28 November 2007 - 4:59am IST

If allowed, the event would upturn a centuries-old unwritten edict followed by the Udupi mutts in Karnataka’s Sri Krishna temple.

BANGALORE: If allowed, the event would upturn a centuries-old unwritten edict followed by the Udupi mutts in Karnataka’s Sri Krishna temple.

It would the first time in seven centuries that a pontiff will take over the administration of Sri Krishna Mutt in Udupi, after having travelled abroad, something which is forbidden.

The pontiff Sugunendra Teertha of Puttige mutt, who first travelled abroad in 1997, has since met president George Bush and president Vladimir Putin in Russia.

He has also established many temples in different parts of the United States like New Jersy, Phoenix and Los Angeles to spread Hindu philosophy.

On the lines of the country’s famous Tirupati temple, which does not allow a priest who has crossed the seas to enter the sanctum sanctorum, the pontiff could similarly be disqualified from the right to enter the sanctum sanctorum of Sri Krishna temple in Udupi.

According to a 750 year old tradition, the temple administration is rotated between an association of eight mutts, with each running the affairs for two years before passing the mantle on. The Puttige mutt pontiff is due to take over on January 18 next year.

A section of the Brahmin community across India believes he cannot opposition to ‘ascend to the Paryaya’ (take his turn) since he has committed the offence of sagarollanghana (crossing the sea) and thus has to be disqualified from the rights.

Says the pontiff of Pejawar mutt in Udupi, Vishweshara Teertha, “There is no opposition for his taking over the administrative charges. But the emotions of lakhs of devotees will be hurt if he enters the sanctum sanctorum and touches the lord. His trip abroad is condemned as an act against the shastras.”

A pundit and the head of Poornapradnya Vidyapeeth (school for Vedas) Vidyasimhachar Mahuli in Mumbai, said, “It is banned to cross the seas in the puranas.

According to the varnashrama dharma (stages of life), he cannot perform a pooja in any country other than India which is considered karma bhoomi (land of noble actions). Other countries are bhoga bhoomi (land of pleasures). Hence, his conducting pooja abroad is against the dharma.”

However, Sugunendra Teertha is adamant. He said that a trip abroad is not banned in any of the religious texts. “There has been an unnecessary controversy created over my foreign trips. I went to the US to propagate the Dwaita philosophy. I don’t regret my visits to foreign countries.

There is no question of my giving up the right to worship lord Krishna. Till such time a written constitution for the Ashta mutts is prepared, status quo shall prevail,” the seer said. He has now appointed a three-member committee to chalk out a written code for the eight mutts.

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