Italy-born danseuse climbs Jagannath chariot, beaten up

Puri, PTI | Updated : 21 July 2013, 10:50 PM

Italy-born famous Odishi dance exponent Ileana Citaristi on Sunday alleged that she was beaten up by the servitors on the chariot of Lord Jagannath as she "refused to pay money for darshan" of the deity.
Chief temple administrator Arabind Padhee said Citaristi had lodged a complaint with temple administration.

The commander of the temple police called 'Barkandas' has been asked to find out who were present on the chariot 'Nandighosh' during that time.

Citaristi, awarded 'Padmashree' for her contribution for promotion of Odishi dance, alleged in her complaint that she and one of her woman pupils had climbed up the chariot by paying donation of Rs 20 each to a priest.

However, when they tried to move close to Lord Jagannath, a servitor demanded Rs 1,000 each from the duo to allow them, Citaristi alleged, adding she was ill-treated and physically assaulted by the servitor when she refused to pay.

"I was shocked over the behaviour of the sevayat who ill-treated and hit me thrice on the head shouting foreigner ..Foreigner," said the foreign national settled in Odisha.

"The temple administration will refer the matter to state police after obtaining a report on the alleged incident from the temple commander", Padhee said, terming the incident unfortunate. "Under no circumstances, anyone should show disrespect to devotees," he said.

Describing the incident as unfortunate, president of Daitapati Niyog, Ramachandra Dasmahapatra, said "we have no right to beat any devotee. On behalf of the Daitapati Niyog, I apologise for the unsavoury episode".

As per temple practise, foreigners are not allowed to climb the chariots - 'Nandighosh' of Lord Jagannath, 'Taladhawaj' of elder brother Lord Balabhadra and 'Darpadalana' of their sister Devi Subhadra - when they stay out of the 12th century shrine during the annual Rath Yatra festival.

However, as the demand for allowing all devotees irrespective of their caste, creed, religion and nationality raised with the temple administration, Gajapati Maharaja of Puri Shri Divyasingha Dev, Shankaracharya of Puri Swamy Nischalananda Saraswati, Mukti Mandap Pandit Sabha and the Daitapati Niyog (priests associated with the rituals during the festival) had held discussion over the vexed issue.

As the matter remained unresolved, it was referred to the Shankaracharya, who was yet to take a final decision.

In the meanwhile, some participants leaked deliberations of the meeting which had reportedly decided to allow all devotees on to the chariots but none could touch the deities, sparking off protest by the priests.

As the matter remained unresolved, the temple administration issued a direction to maintain status-quo during Rath Yatra which meant no foreigner was allowed to climb the chariots and touch the Lords.

First Published: Sunday, July 21, 2013 10:17 PM
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