Bhubaneswar: The ban on betel leaves and tobacco products, including gutkha, inside the Jagannath temple in Puri came into effect on Thursday.
As per the new rule, a devotee found with any of these prohibited items inside the premises of the 12th-century shrine in Odisha will have to shell out Rs 500 as a penalty, Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) chief administrator P K Mohapatra said.
According to an official, the ban came into force on Thursday after a decision was taken during an SJTA meeting on Monday. This has been done to ensure cleanliness in the temple. The ban is being strictly enforced and proper arrangements have been made to ensure that no devotee, servitor or staff is allowed to enter the temple with betel leaves, gutkha and tobacco, the official said.
Signboards have been put around the temple to create awareness about the new rules, another official said, noting that the move had evoked a positive response. Guards posted at the temple gates are frisking the devotees and the staff to prevent them from carrying the banned items, the official said, adding that spitting inside the premises had become a menace.
Welcoming the move as "very good", a servitor said it would play a significant role in preserving the sanctity of the temple, which attracts millions of devotees from across the country as well as abroad.
"It is not proper to chew paan (betel leaves) or gutkha and spit in the temple premises," he said. "People can chew these once they are outside the shrine." The world-famous temple is dedicated to Lord Jagannath, a form of Lord Maha Vishnu.
Built by Ganga dynasty king Anantavarman Chodaganga in the 12th century, it is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the country.