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Puri: No crowding of chariots: Temple body

BHUBANESWAR: Buoyed by last year's Orissa high court order to implement Puri Shankaracharya's decision to ban pilgrims on chariots, the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) has decided to form squads to drive away non-priests from the three raths. Several influential people usually climb the chariots in the guise of priests on Rath Yatra and Bahuda Yatra.

"Like last year, we will implement the high court order. We will ensure that priests do not take their clients onto the chariots," said temple's chief administrator Suresh Mohapatra. "We will deploy our personnel to identify the fake priests and urge police to drive them out," said Mohapatra.

Devotees expressed concern over poor regulation of crowd during Pahandi from the sanctum sanctorum to chariots.

"Though there is a guideline about the exact number of people required to be present on chariots, it has not been implemented properly. The temple administration and police should ensure the guideline is followed," said Badri Mishra, member of a socio-cultural outfit.

Overcrowded chariots have been a cause for concern for the temple administration as well as devotees, who failed to catch a glimpse of the deities because of the presence of a large number of priests and their guests on the chariots. Devotees, wearing priestly attires, climb the chariots by allegedly paying hefty amounts to some priests.

The cause of the stampede during Rath Yatra in 2008 was attributed to the rush on chariots. Since the chariots were overcrowded, the pilgrims standing on the ground became restless, leading to the stampede. Six persons were killed.

The annual festival is beamed live by several television channels, a number of priests seize the opportunity to be in the limelight by standing in front of the deities.

Around 84 members (priests, ghantuas (who beat cymbals) and some police) are supposed to be present on Balabhadra's chariot followed by 96 on the chariot of Jagannath and 72 on Subhadra's chariot. Rules were often flouted during Rath Yatra in the previous years and not less than 200 persons were present on each chariot.

Source: Times-Of-India

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