Panel formed to probe falling of Lord Balabhadra idol on servitors during Rath Yatra ritual

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Bhubaneswar: Puri's Jagannath temple has formed a three-member panel to probe the falling of Lord Balabhadra idol on some servitors while it was being taken from the chariot to Gundicha temple as part of the Rath Yatra festival, an official said.

The committee has expressed concern over the incident during the 'Pahandi' ritual on Tuesday night and also held a detailed discussion on the incident, said V V Yadav, chief administrator of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) in Puri.

The three-member panel consisting of an additional district magistrate (ADM), SJTA administrator (development), and a DSP rank police officer will investigate the matter and submit a report within 10 days after completion of 'Niladri Bije' (return of Lord Jagannath and his siblings to their temple), he said.

The committee will examine the available video footage and see whether designated servitors were there or not along with other aspects that led to such an incident, Yadav told reporters.

The chief administrator also said that the managing committee has also recommended the Odisha government to reopen Ratna Bhandar (treasury) of the Jagannath temple for inventory and repair works.

A dozen servitors of the Puri Jagannath temple were injured on Tuesday when the idol of Lord Balabhadra fell on them while it was being taken from the chariot to Gundicha temple as part of the Rath Yatra festival, Puri Collector Siddharth Shankar Swain said.

The incident happened shortly after 9 pm when the heavy wooden idol was being brought down from Lord Balabhadra's chariot to be taken to the Gundicha temple.

Out of the 12 injured servitors, only one person has been shifted to a health facility for observation only, Swain said.

Similarly, Puri Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb, who is also the chairman of the managing committee, expressed concerns over the mishap and said it has hurt all the devotees of Lord Jagannath across the world.

The managing committee meeting held a detailed discussion including the presence of a higher number of servitors on the chariot and during the 'Pahandi' ritual, he said.

The committee will meet again after 'Niladri Bije' and take appropriate steps so that such an incident does not recur, Deb said.

Meanwhile, opposition BJD and Congress have targeted the state government over the issue.

The incident has severely hurt the sentiments of millions of Jagannath devotees including 4.5 crore Odias, BJD leader and Bhubaneswar Mayor Sulochana Das said and urged the BJP government to ensure smooth conduct of the remaining rituals of Rath Yatra.

Congress MLA Tara Prasad Bahinipati said, "The party (BJP), which came to power with blessings of Lord Jagannath is unable to protect the Lord. For ministers, the chief minister and the BJP, it may be a minor thing but it is not a small thing for the devotees."

State BJP vice-president Biranchi Tripathy said the BJD has no right to make any statement as it has been involved in a series of irregularities in the management of the temple.

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