The Jagannath temple in Puri was recently in the news when Ileana Citaristi, an accomplished Odissi dancer, Padmashri awardee and Jagannath devotee, was assaulted by some priests who were extorting dakshina. The temple priests have for long heaped indignities on darshan-seekers. In November 2005, princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand was denied entry. Sant Kabir, Guru Nanak, Indira Gandhi, Zail Singh and Curzon are among those kept out in the near and distant past. Orthodoxy reigns, and caste discrimination has been in practice, like in many other temples, for centuries. Surprisingly, in Puri, the bases for such discrimination have been regulations set by the East India Company. And how did this come to pass? Strange but true, the temple courted the firangs.
It all began in 1803. Wellesley had launched an offensive that drove away the Peshwa rulers and conquered Orissa for the East India Company. Lt Col Campbell, who led the campaign and was camping at Pipli, three or four miles from Puri, must have been surprised to find a delegation of priests from the temple, an oracle of Lord Jagannath in tow, seeking audience. According to one Swami Dharma Teertha, quoted in History of Hindu Imperialism (ed. 1941), “The oracle of the Puri Jagannath temple proclaimed that it was the desire of the deity that the temple too be controlled by the company, and the latter undertook to maintain the temple buildings, pay the Brahmins and do everything for the service of the deity as was customary.” The delegation had material interests on its mind. On cue, the company entered Puri and took over the temple management, plagued then by widespread corruption. The priests, devadasis and all others in the service of Lord Jagannath began to receive salaries from the company. Thus began an enigmatic honeymoon between a Hindu shrine and a British trading company. Thus began the practice of company regulations, framed no doubt in consultation with the Brahmin orthodoxy, deciding which castes would be permitted entry.
For instance, by Regulation XI of 1809, the company banned the entry of the Lolee (or Kasbee), Kalal (or Sunri), Machua, Namasudra (or Chandal), Gazur, Bagdi, Jogi (or Narbaf), Kahar Bauri (or Dulia), Rajbansi, Pirali, Chamar, Dom, Pan, Tior, Bhuimali and Hari castes or sub-castes into the temple. Most of the excluded castes were from the lower social strata of Bengal. In the list, the Piralis, to which the prominent Tagores belonged, stood out: it was a Brahmin sub-group ‘stigmatised’ by a faint Islamic association. The very next year, however, an amendment threw open the temple doors to the Piralis. The stigma remained, though.
As a golden rule, the company never touched on any socio-religious issue bearing on the life of Indians without consulting Brahmin scholars. This was to keep the overpowering orthodoxy in appeasement. The Bengal directorate of education, for instance, consulted Pandit Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar on the eligibility of the Kayasths and Subarnabaniks (or goldsmiths) for admission to the Sanskrit college in Calcutta. Citing the scriptures, the reformer-educationist supported the admission of Kayasths but not the Subarnabaniks.
Such guardedness, besides aiming to prevent social unrest that could indirectly affect business, had a direct connection to profit, especially in temple matters. By Regulation IV of 1806, the company imposed four categories of taxes—from Rs 2 to Rs 10—on pilgrims to the Jagannath temple. This ended only in 1841, when pilgrim taxes in Gaya, Prayag, Tirupati and Puri were abolished. According to an article by Col Laurie in The Calcutta Review (Vol X, September 1848), the average annual earning of the Jagannath temple from 1806-41 was Rs 1,16,074 and the average expenditure Rs 54,973. The company thus enriched its coffers by Rs 61,101 every year. Rulers have always found temple taxes and votary offerings irresistible. When the Hindu Peshwas started ruling Orissa, they never cared to abolish the pilgrim tax, originally imposed by Aurangzeb in an earlier era. The company continued with the taxes as long as it could though it faced bitter criticism in Britain—from Karl Marx, among others—for involving itself with a temple where idolatry and prostitution were practised.
Be that as it may. Citaristi may have been picked on as a foreigner, but the Jagannath temple, it must be pointed out, has shown a preference for the alien ruler. In his testimony to the backward classes commission headed by B.P. Mandal, Janata Dal MP Madhu Dandavate stated that Mountbatten was once accompanied on a visit to the Jagannath temple by a member of his executive council. The priests gave the paramount a grand welcome. They kept the executive council member out. He was Dr B.R. Ambedkar.
(The writer is a retired IAS officer and scholar.)
A.K. Biswas’s column (The Foreign Hand in Puri, Aug 26) brings out the hypocrisy of the priests and establishment of the Jagannath temple. Ileana Citaristi, an Italy-born Odissi danseuse who has been living in India for over three decades, was roughed up by priests (or pandas) at the temple. They demanded that she pay a penalty for violating the rule that foreigners are not allowed to board a rath. This is not the first time such an unpleasant incident has taken place in Puri. But the administration has taken no action.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
"Dr Narendra Dabholkar, a rationalist and a senior social activist, who led the anti-superstition movement, died in a brazen attack on Tuesday. The bill, which he had been fighting for and perhaps died for, got a boost on Wednesday when the state government hurriedly issued the ordinance — the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Ordinance — to replace a Bill that had been approved by the cabinet but had lapsed before it could be taken up in the assembly. The Bill had been pending for eight years. The killing shocked people from all walks of life— citizens, activists, and even the politicians."
Is this the black magic ordinance you were talking about?
Woah, and here I thought Scientologists were insane!
''Pakistan-trained terrorists planning to attack south India
Mateen Hafeez, TNN :
The alert expresses concern over the attempts of several terror outfitsâ€”including LeT, Babbar Khalsa International, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Jamat-ud-Dawaa, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Al-Umer Mujahideen, Hizb-ul-Mujahideenâ€”at joining hands to organize strikes in India. It also points to several Pakistan-based groups' efforts to use Sri Lanka as the launching pad for their operations in India.
The warning mentions various intelligence inputs gathered over time. One such input suggested the LeT is plotting to target the Wagah border crossing, particularly during the flag-lowering ceremony.
Another bit of informationâ€”received in September 2012 and uncorroboratedâ€”said that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is planning a 26/11-style attack in New Delhi. Yet another input was of a meeting, "organised by LeT commander Habib ur Rehman", of commanders of several militant outfits in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan this year. During the meet, the alert says, Rehman pressured the commanders to push maximum possible cadres into India to carry out "small targeted actions" in different parts of the country.''
Let USA & NATO withdraw from Af-Pak Axis in 2014 thereafter by 2016-17 India will look alike Pakistan and other Islamic Nations facing Jihadi attacks on Daily basis .
DL Narayan >> Excellent point. In the interests of secularism, we need to desaffronise the names of our rivers asap.
Well we should help these seculars in this initiative, so we should not just stop at renaming rivers. Change our flag, national anthem, national emblem to strengthen secularism. Here is a plan that should make our Secular Eminent citizens happy :
* Our National flag is also not secular. It shows saffron at the top.
Saffron at the top means glorifying hinduism. How dare? And we have sudarshan chakra in center.Again glorifying a hindu symbol. Replace saffron with red and replace the wheel (chakra) with hand to make it secular. A fitting tribute to the left and congress party which represent the secular values of India !
* Our national emblem is showing lions. Does it not hint about the Avtar of Hindu god vishnu where he appeared as half lion? Very Very bad.. So remove that and replace with a cat . Why ? Cat is secular. It is approved and loved animal in modern world (Read as western world). Prophet mohammed is said to approve cats as a desirable animal. What more do we want? Make cat as our emblem and withdraw all existing currency that show the old emblems.
* Then our national anthem - jana gana is also too sanskritised, Throw it out. Sare jahan se Acha of Iqbal is also undesirable, since Iqbal calls India as Hindustan in those lyrics.Have a new national anthem . Maybe Jai Ho lyrics (slumdog millionaire) would be the best anthem. And enact a new law to prohibit anyone singing Vande mataram since it would trigger communalism.
* Then rename our cities that were named after hindu gods. Start with Kolkata. It should be renamed as KarlMarxGhat.
* Calling India as Bharat or Hindustan is also communal. Declare it as
criminal offense punishable with up to 7 years in Jail. India shall be only called as India. Or Rather Secular India.
* Rename all those companies carrying names like Hindustan or Bharat . So Bharat petroleum should be renamed as something else.Maybe Sonia petroleum,as a fitting tribute to the lady who gives us food security.
Hitesh B >> Yes, who cares about French literacy, child nutrition, living
standard and technological advancement. there is plenty of time and
resources for that.
Yes, Certainly I do care. Which is why, I am not interested in policing our
schools to check if people are not celebrating raksha bandhan or dussera or
ramadaan in schools. That is why I do not care if our naval ships are named
in sanskrit. Let us not bother too much about replicating a France style
secularism here, when we are not having basics in place. The basics -
education and public health should be our focus, not trying to figure out
why some one is putting that little picture of infant jesus in his desk in
a public area or distributing diwali sweets in a government office. As long as there is no compulsion to follow another faith, we have no grounds to complain.
What IS IN A NAME >> Some JNU academic is working on it. Eventually, you shall have a "large amount of data", which shall show that ASI has built roads,
LOL.. are you telling us about those academics, who enlightened us that Rs 33 per day is
enough to be above poverty line in India ?? No thanks, I dont need this data !!!
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