New Delhi: Overcoming a centuries-old ban, Christians, Muslims and visitors from other religions may soon be allowed to offer respects and make offerings to the deity at the Jagannath Temple in Puri as the Supreme Court has asked the temple management to consider relaxing its curbs. The apex court also hinted that it would lift similar bans on entry of non-Hindu visitors into other temples.
A bench of Justices A.K. Goel and Abdul Nazeer directions to the Jagannath Temple’s management after taking note of a report filed by the district judge of Puri who had observed that large number of foreigners and visitors of other religious faiths are not allowed inside the temple. The bench in its order on a petition filed by Mrinalini Padhi said the temple management may consider, subject to regulatory measures with regard to dress code, permitting every visitor, irrespective of his or her faith, to offer respects and to make offerings to the deity.
The bench directed the Puri temple’s management to prevent illegal collection of money from visitors by thalis and pitchers and to consider other suggestions given by the district judge in his report. The bench posted the matter for further hearing on September 5.
Amicus curiae Gopal Subramaniam and others mentioned Kamakhya Te-mple in Assam, Kalibari Temple in Kolkata, Pracheen Hanuman Mandir at Jamuna Bazar in Delhi, Tiruchendur Temple at Tamil Nadu and Dargah Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer, which attract large number of visitors of all faiths. Counsel representing Union ministry of culture assured the court that it will take interest in the matter as the issue involves protection of cultural heritage of the country. Amicus curiae stated that there were 7,000 antique temples in Tamil Nadu alone.
The bench said, “We have noted that Hinduism does not eliminate any other belief and is eternal faith and wisdom and inspiration of centuries, as noted in earlier judgments of this court.” The court also cited an earlier judgment which said: “Hinduism, as a religion, incorporates all forms of belief without mandating the selection of elimination of any one single belief. It is a religion that has no single founder; no single scripture and no single set of teachings.”
The bench also took note of the difficulties faced by visitors, deficiencies in management, maintenance of hygiene, appropriate utilisation of offerings and protection of assets, irrespective of religion, across the country and said: “It is a matter for consideration not only for the state government, Central government but also for courts.” The bench directed the Centre to set up a committee to look into these aspects and submit a report by August 31. The court also directed that if any devotee moves any district judge with any grievance, the judge may examine the matter and, if necessary, send a report to the high court concerned....