A Soothing Court for Devotees

by Jun 13, 2023Blogs0 comments

Battery Cars For Old & Differently Abled, Mobile Toilet For Devotees : Orissa High Court Issues Directions For Smooth Darshan At Alarnath Temple


It is most reassuring, most refreshing and most rejuvenating to learn that none other than the Orissa High Court itself has in a most courageous, commendable, cogent and convincing judgment and so also learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Madhusudan Pujapanda vs State of Odisha and others in W.P.(C) No. 18116 of 2023 that was pronounced finally on June 8, 2023 has issued a slew of most commendable directions to the Puri District Administration and Lord Alarnath temple committee for smooth and comfortable darshan of Lord Alarnath by lakhs of devotees during the ‘Anasara’ which is a two-week period when as legend goes Lord Jagannath is believed to manifest himself through Lord Alarnath. We had seen how earlier while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in this matter pertaining to better crowd management measures at the temple, the Court had asked the district administration to file an affidavit stating the steps taken by it to control the huge crowd and other ancillary facilities arranged by it for devotees. It must be mentioned here that accordingly, we saw how the Tahsildar of Brahmagiri, Puri then filed an affidavit in consonance with what was directed by the Orissa High Court explaining in detail all the facilities arranged and negated the claim that the administration has not taken any effective steps in that regard. After going through the affidavit and perusing the existing facilities in detail and quite extensively, the Division Bench of Hon’ble Mr Justice Sangam Kumar Sahoo and Hon’ble Mr Justice Murahari Sri Raman deemed it proper to issue the following additional directions to the administration and the temple committee which form the sum and substance of this notable judgment.

At the very outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by the Division Bench of Hon’ble Mr Justice Sangam Kumar Sahoo and Hon’ble Mr Justice Murahari Sri Raman of Orissa High Court at Cuttack sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in the opening part that, “This matter is taken up through Hybrid arrangement (video conferencing/physical mode). Heard learned counsel for the petitioner and learned counsel for the State. The petitioner-Madhusudan Pujapanda has filed this writ petition by way of Public Interest Litigation with the following prayer:-

“Issue any appropriate writ order or direction / command, to Respondents to consider the representations under Annexure-1 and 2 series for proper crowd management, arrangement of Darshan from Argali (Space connected to narrow strip to Sanctum Sanctorum (Garbhagriha) of Lord Allarnath), providing facilities and maintaining law and order for the huge crowd gathering during religious gathering of large numbers of devotees in Shree Shree Alarnath Temple, Brahmagiri during anavasara for two weeks period from 05.06.2023 (Fifth June of Two Thousand Twenty Three).

It is therefore, prayed that this Hon’ble Court may graciously be pleased to admit this PIL writ petition, issue RULE NISI calling upon the opp. parties to show cause, and if the opposite parties fail to show cause or show insufficient case, the said rule be made absolute in granting the relief’s prayed for.”

To put things in perspective, the Division Bench envisages in the next para of this brilliant judgment that, “It is stated that Alarnatha temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu and located in Brahmagiri, Odisha, near Puri. It becomes crowded during the kirshnapaksha of Ashadha, after the Snana Yatra when devotees are not allowed to see the central icon of Jagannath (a form of Vishnu) in Puri temple. After the ceremonial bath on the eve of “Snana Purnima”, the siblings deities Lord Balabhadra, Lord Jagannath and Devi Subhadra are believed to be down with fever and they returned to Anasara Ghara in Shree Jagannath temple. During this period, popularly known as Anasara or ‘Anavasara’ (literally meaning no opportunity to see the lord of Puri), instead of having darshan in the Puri temple, devotees believe that Lord Jagannath during this time manifests as Alarnath Dev, at the Alarnath temple in Brahmagiri. It is also believed that the devotees can avail the same blessings and fortune of Jagannath darshan by having the darshan of Lord Alarnath. Along with Lord Alarnath, the devotees get the darshan of Lord Ananta Basudev in place of Lord Balabhadra and Devi Bhubaneswari in place of Devi Subhadra. The idols of Lord Dolagobinda, Lord Nrusingha, Lord Madanmohan, Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Goddess Bhudevi, Goddess Sridevi and ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu are also being worshipped at the Alarnath temple.”

Going ahead, the Division Bench then enunciates in the next para of this robust judgment that, “On 06.06.2023 when the matter was taken up, learned counsel for the State was asked to obtain instruction in the matter and file an affidavit indicating steps taken by the District Administration for crowd management and arrangement for smooth darshan of the deity which was commenced on 05.06.2023 and likely to continue for two weeks and also regarding the provisions made for safe and smooth entry into and exit from the temple, so also the regulatory measure taken by the temple administration/committee and also by the District Administration.”

Finally and far most significantly, what really constitutes the cornerstone of this learned judgment is then laid bare in the concluding part wherein it is directed by the Division Bench that, “After going through the affidavit and on hearing the learned counsel for the respective parties and considering the suggestions given, we feel it necessary to direct the District Administration, temple administration/Committee to take these further steps for the smooth and peaceful darshan of the deity by the devotees.

(i) The ceiling fans, which are stated to have been installed inside the shade should be thoroughly checked at regular intervals for its safety as there is likelihood of the same being falling over the devotees due to improper installation, lack of maintenance or other defects, thereby causing injury to them. In addition to the ceiling fans, pedestal fan arrangements are to be provided outside the barricade already made at close distance in view of scorching summer heat for the comfort of the devotees during their movement inside the barricade. During movement of devotees in queue, safe distance be ensured for physical comfort and to avoid collision;

(ii) Separate arrangements are to be made for the early darshan of the deity by the old/physically disabled and differently abled persons/women/children and battery car arrangements should be made from the parking space of the vehicles which is situated at a considerable distance from the temple to the point of separate entry of these categories of devotees and also for their return from the exit point to the parking area;

(iii) Sale of prasad and eating of prasad by the devotees inside the temple premises is to be restricted/ regulated to prevent gathering of crowd for such purpose for a long time inside the premises and separate arrangement should be made at a place adjacent to the temple;

(iv) The darshan time of the deity and also the closing time of the darshan on account of performance of different rituals of the deity should be published in some print media and broadcasted in electronic media on day to day basis for the information of the devotees in order to facilitate them to visit the temple during the festival as per their convenience;

(v) Since it is mentioned in the affidavit filed today that in the last two days of the yatra i.e. 05.06.2023 and 06.06.2023, the devotees were having darshan of the deity from the Argali area, the same arrangement shall continue till the end of the festival and the administration is required to ensure that no servitor of the temple is allowed to take any devotee beyond the Argali area to have a close darshan of the deity (inside the sanctum sanctorum) particularly during rush hour;

(vi) Mobile toilet arrangement should be made nearer to the barricade for the convenience of the devotees; and

(vii) The movement of the devotees inside and outside the temple should be monitored through CCTV in the control room;

(viii) Civic facilities, administrative and security measures as would be necessary should be organized immaculately by the District Administration for comfortable darshan of Lord Alarnath by the devotees.”

With the aforesaid observation and direction, the writ petition stands disposed of. Issue urgent certified copy as per Rules. A free copy of this order be handed over to the learned State counsel for compliance.”

In conclusion, there can certainly be no gainsaying nor can there be any quibbling with the clear writing on the wall that what the Orissa High Court has so very forthrightly, fairly, firmly and finally directed must be implemented forthwith by the concerned authorities accordingly as directed apart from what has already been done as stated in the affidavit. It also definitely merits no reiteration that all possible arrangements must be definitely made to strictly ensure foolproof that the devotees don’t suffer any kind of hassles in any manner while they come to have a darshan as we have discussed already quite in detail. No denying!

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