The row over the Puri Shankaracharya boycotting Rath Yatra protesting restrictions put by administration snowballed into a major controversy today with two Union ministers and the Assam Governor disapproving of state government's interference in the religious matter.
Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati on June 29 refrained from visiting the chariots before they were pulled on the Rath Yatra day. "The age old tradition of the Puri Shankaracharya visiting the chariots before their pulling has been broken. This is not acceptable," Assam Governor and former Odisha Chief Minister JB Patnaik said. "In a secular country, the government should not interfere in the religious matters of any community," Union Information and Broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar said.
The Union Minister gave his reaction over the dispute after paying Darshan of the Lord Jagannath at Puri. "Conventions and traditions must be observed in religious matters," Javadekar said.
Asked whether he would meet the Shankaracharya, Javadekar said, "Not this time. I have to leave Puri due to other engagements. I will meet the seer some time later".
Meanwhile, Union Tribal Affairs minister Jual Oram demanded a thorough investigation into the entire episode and action against those responsible for break of traditions. "It is unfortunate that the state government is yet to hold talks with the Shankaracharya even though the controversy is rocking the state," he said.
JB Patnaik said, "It is regrettable that the Shankaracharya was restricted to climb the chariots. The manner in which the administration wrote him a letter putting restriction, is not justified." "Instead of sending such a letter to Shankaracharya, the administration should have held a discussion with all stake holders for an amicable solution," Patnaik, who is an eminent Sanskrit scholar, said. The Govardhan Peeth has centuries-old association with the Sri Jagannath Temple as it is this institution which determines the rituals and other religious activities in the 12th century shrine with, Patnaik pointed out.
Seeking an immediate solution to the issue, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee President Jaydev Jena said in a statement that the Shankaracharya, temple administration and state government should try to resolve the row keeping in mind the direction of Orissa High Court on the matter.
Meanwhile, Odisha's Excise Minister Damodar Rout, however, smelt politics behind the statement of the Assam Governor. "Janaki Babu was the Chief Minister of the state for 14 years. He also has vast knowledge of Jagannath culture. Instead of criticising the state government, it would have been better if he had come out with some practical solution to the problem," Rout said.
Meanwhile, powerful Daitapati Nijog of Sri Mandir also criticised the Assam Governor's statement. "Jankaki Babu should withdraw his statement that government put restriction on the Shankaracharya out of fear.
Was he afraid of Daitapati priests when he was the chief minister," Daitapati Nijog president Ramakrushna Dasmohapatra asked.