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

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Bhubaneswar, Jul 10 (PTI) The Puri Jagannath temple managing committee on Wednesday formed a three-member panel to probe the idol of Lord Balabhadra falling on some servitors while it was being taken from the chariot to a temple as part of the Rath Yatra festival, an official said.

The committee has expressed concern over the idol of Lord Balabhadra falling on some servitors 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 informed 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 a temple as part of the Rath Yatra festival, Puri Collector Siddharth Shankar Swain said.

The mishap 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 would not occur in future, Deb said. From the incident, the servitors have learnt a lesson and they will ensure that such incidents do not happen again, he asserted.

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 for Lord Jagannath, is unable to protect the Lord. "For ministers, the chief minister and BJP, it is a minor thing. But it is not a small thing for the devotees," he added.

In his reaction, 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. PTI BBM BBM RG