Puri Gajapati advises people to take refuge in spirituality

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Puri: Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb is the King of Puri and “Aadyasevak” of Lord Jagannath. He is also known as the “Thakura Raja” of Puri. The Gajapati Maharaja has a special place in Jagannath culture as he plays a significant role in the rituals and festivals of Srimandir.

The godly king of Puri has candidly spoken on different topics relating to Jagannath Temple in an exclusive interview to Birupakshya Tripathy, Executive Editor, Pragativadi.

Here are the excerpts:

  • Do you think cyclonic storm FANI will adversely affect Rath Yatra this year?

I strongly believe that the Rath Yatra will be celebrated with deep religious fervour this year. The administration is taking adequate measures to normalise the situation on a war footing. The devotees will throng the temple town as usual.

  • How much are you satisfied with the performance of rituals and management of Srimandir?

In my opinion, the management of Srimandir has improved in the past 60 years. A lot remains to be done. The government has taken over the management of Sri Mandir in 1955 and therefore the Gajapati Maharaja does not have much say in the day to day administration of the temple. The Gajapati has become a common citizen after the monarchy was abolished in 1803. The management of the temple is now with the government after taking away the responsibility from my father Gajapati Maharaja Bira Kishore Deb.

  • The government is trying to bring in reforms in the management of temple administration in the past several years. Although Puri temple is different from other temples in the country, how far you accept the reforms?

The management of Srimandir has improved in the past 50 to 60 years. But, the temple administration should take appropriate measures for its smooth management. The Supreme Court has given suggestions on the management of the temple and this has been discussed at length in the management committee. The sole responsibility lies with the administration and chief temple administrator for the smooth management of the affairs.

  • Of late, there has been gross negligence in the management of rituals and this has hurt the religious sentiments of devotees. What is your opinion on the matter and how this can be resolved?

Disturbances and mismanagement have come down considerably. But, this has to be checked thoroughly. I think the number of disturbances has come down as compared to the past. Proper cohesion between the temple administration and the servitors will settle the problem.

  • What you have to say on servitors and their role?

It is high time that the children of servitors be given quality education relating to Jagannath culture and religious and spiritual ethos. A Srimandir Adarsha Gurukulam has been established to provide quality education to the wards of servitors. This institution will provide them with basic insight and knowledge on Jagannath culture to build them as ideal servitors. There is a need to improve their financial condition as well as education standard so that they can become ideal servitors.

  • The Supreme Court has opted for the abolition of hereditary service. What is the opinion of Gajapati Maharaja in this regard and is it possible to implement the decision?

The Supreme Court has dwelt upon some issues on the public interest litigation (PIL) and hereditary rights of the servitors was one of the issues. The chief temple administrator and servitors have discussed over the matter in detail. All agreed that as the rituals of the temple is based on religious scriptures and it has been handed down from ages. It is important that servitors are selected on their merit for performing rituals. The servitors who are no longer engaged in the work should be given compensation. The servitors who are in the job should get remuneration.

  • The administration has taken measures on rituals and darshan. There is growing discontentment among the devotees on the provision of queue darshan. What is your opinion on the matter?

The administration is taking appropriate measures for streamlining darshan system in Jagannath temple for the devotees. The number of devotees has increased. Therefore, it is important that the rituals completed in time to enable the devotees to get the opportunity to offer prayers. The administration has introduced queue darshan on an experimental basis and offering prayers in sanctum sanctorum has been set aside to avoid hassles.

  • Is there any danger to Srimandir? Are you satisfied with the measures being taken for the security of the temple?

As the temple is on the hit list of terrorists, the government is taking befitting measures to tackle the situation. I am sure, the government is deeply concerned about the security of Jagannath temple which is regarded as the topmost religious seat of Hinduism. Puri is the most important dham among the four dhams.

  • The ASI has been entrusted with the responsibility of conservation and maintenance of Srimandir. But, it is often seen that the concerned agency is not discharging its responsibility properly. What do you have to say in this matter?

Perhaps the government has entrusted the responsibility of maintenance of Srimandir from 1979. But, I think the ASI is not doing things properly. Srimandir is lively the devotional seat of Hindus. It is different from other temples. The maintenance of the temple was immediately taken up after a stone came down crashing some years ago. Jagmohan work is being done, but the condition of Nata Mandap and Bhog Mandap is not good. The steel structure fitted with the main temple was responsible for inflicting damage due to the impact of cyclonic storm FANI.

  • Srimandir is related with the religious sentiments of scores of Odias. Are you confident of its security and longevity?

This question can be best answered by Lord Jagannath. We never know what is going to happen and when it will happen. We can try, but everything depends on Him. He is the creator and responsible for its efflorescence. The Lord enjoys a good drama. Everything happens under his direction. This is Kalyug. Bad persons outnumber good ones. Things take shape according to His wishes and we have little say over it.

  • Gajapati is the prime servitor of Lord Jagannath. Do you have any special feelings in this regard?

There is no difference between yours and mine in this respect.

  • What is your message to the devotees?

The devotees are human beings. They have taken birth as humans due to their sacred act. They should take refuge in God and spiritual activity. Only then they can forge ahead on the right path.

  • LAST WORD: Who is the next Gajapati Maharaja?

God knows.

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