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Puri priests up in arms against ISKCON

Friday, 14 November 2008 / Published in Appeals / 11,273 views

Puri priests up in arms against ISKCON Ratha Yatra dates burn an effigy of the Founder/Acarya

The priests at Jagannath Temple here are again up in arms against the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which, despite facing flak from different quarters last year, is again likely to celebrate Rath Yatra on different dates at various places in the country.

A number of priests and cultural enthusiasts under the banner of Sri Jagannath Sena, a local cultural outfit, staged a demonstration in front of the world famous 12th century shrine on Tuesday protesting against the proposed untimely celebration of annual Rath Yatra by ISKCON authorities at different places, including New Delhi and Ludhiana. The angry priests even burnt the effigy of Srila Prabhupada, the Founder/Acharya of ISKCON. ISKCON is likely to observe Rath Yatra at different places in next couple of months, said some of the agitating priests.

“Time and again the ISKCON society is flouting our tradition and norms. Last year too they did not pay heed to our protests and went ahead with celebrating Rath Yatra on different dates at various places in the country,” said Priyadarshan Pattanaik, the national convener of the Sena.

“Even though Jagannath temples exist in every nook and cranny of the world, the Jagannath Temple at Puri is the real abode of Jagannath. And going by the age-old tradition, the annual Rath Yatra of the Lord is observed on asadha sukla dwitiya that falls in June and July in the Gregorian calendar,” Pattanaik maintained.

Expressing solidarity with the priests, Mayapurchandra dasa, a former ISKCON devotee from Italy said the Krishna followers should abide by the precept of Hindu religion and calendar. ” ISKCON should celebrate Rath Yatra on the same day as observed here. But burning the effigy of Prabhupada is condemnable,” Mayapurchandra said.

Priests reproached the Jagannath Temple administration for doing little to stop such practices by ISKCON. “The shrine authorities last time had promised to take legal action against the ISKCON authorities after the latter underplayed the warnings made by the former. But the Jagannath temple officials turned back from that promise. This bolstered ISKCON to observe Rath Yatra once again on different dates,” said an agitating priest, Somnath Khuntia.

Surprisingly, the temple Chief Administrator, Sailendra Narayan Sarangi, parried the issue saying “I have no idea about it”. He even did not reply whether he will take up the matter again with the ISKCON authorities. Temple PRO Laxmidhar Pujapanda said the Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb requested the ISKCON body to celebrate Rath Yatra on the same date, akin to Puri.

We encourage ISKCON leaders, all disciples and followers of Srila Prabhupada to immediately express their outrage via petitions and personal complaints to Puri Temple administrators and officials. Please direct your letters, faxes and phone calls to the following individuals.

Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb Chairman, Sri Jagannath Temple Managing Committee Sri Nahar, Puri 752001 Phone 1: 91-674-2511166 Phone 2: 91-6752-222829 Fax: 91-674-513842

E-mail: Mr. Suresh Chandra Mohapatra, IAS Working Chairman Shri Jagannath Temple Office, Puri Phone 1: 91-6752-223002 Phone 2: 91-6752-222002 E-mail:

Mr. Bhaskar Jyoti Sarma, IAS Collector & Deputy Chief Administrator Shri Jagannath Temple Office, Puri. Phone (Office): 91-6752-222033 Phone (Residence): 91-6752-222034 Fax: 91-6752-223939 E-mail:

Sailendra Narayan Sarangi Chief Administrator, Jagannatha Puri Temple E-mail:

In a related story from ‘The Hindu’:

Protest against proposed car festival by ISKCON

Staff Reporter, THE HINDU

Puri: A number of servitors of Jagannath Temple and cultural enthusiasts of Puri on Tuesday took to the street protesting the proposed car festival to be organised by International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in New Delhi on November 23.

They were enraged over untimely celebration of the festival. Servitors burnt effigy of Srila Prabhupada, the founder acharya of ISKCON. Shouting slogans against the organisers, these servitors threatened not to allow the ISKCON followers to Puri.

“Ratha Yatra is usually celebrated in the month of June and July. Since Puri is the real abode of Lord Jagannath, the festival timing should be followed by everyone in and outside the State. So celebrating Ratha Yatra on an unscheduled date is anti-Hindu,” said Priyadarshan Patnaik, national convenor of Jagannath Sena, a local outfit.

The State government and the Jagannath Temple Administration (JTA) should take action against ISKCON authorities and prevent organisers at New Delhi from celebrating the Rath Yatra. Reacting to the development JTA’s public relation officer Laxmidhar Pujapanda said Dibyasingh Dev, scion of Puri Royal family, had requested other State government not to allow celebration of Car Festival on any unscheduled date. Despite the protest last year, ISKCON had celebrated the car festival in New Delhi. It had evoked sharp reactions among servitors and other die-hard followers of Jagannath cult.

However, Bhubaneswar unit of ISKCON had disassociated from the whole controversy. Chief of ISKCON, Bhubaneswar Golak Mohapatra said, “we are not part of the decision taken at New Delhi. We will follow the rituals of Jagannath Temple at Puri. We have even passed a resolution to this effect.”

Academic responds to effigy burning
I Will Follow

15 Responses to “Puri priests up in arms against ISKCON”

    November 14, 2008

    Dear Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb,

    My respects to you. Jaya Jagannatha!

    My name is Danavir Goswami, a member of ISKCON and disciple of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

    You may recall that a few years ago I organized the tour of Druze leaders that journeyed from Israel to Jagannatha Puri to meet you. They enjoyed their visit very much.

    I have heard that under your jurisdiction an effigy of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was recently burned by those claiming to be followers of Lord Jagannatha. I find it almost unbelievable.

    Millions of persons around the world, such as myself, had never heard of Lord Jagannatha before Srila Prabhupada and his ISKCON movement brought the Rathayatra Chariot festivals to our cities. Now we worship Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra with great devotion and love.

    Srila Prabhupada was a great devotee of Lord Jagannatha in modern history—how then could such a saintly person’s image be defamed in Puri itself?

    I do not suspect that you were a party to the effigy burning, however since this great atrocity has taken place under your supervision, I urge you to use your powers to the fullest extent to punish those who are responsible for the act. The world awaits your decision and action so that this heinous act is rectified.

    May Lord Jagannatha guide you and empower you to take the correct action in this matter. I will be very thankful to hear it and see it so that such a demoniac action is never performed again in Jagannatha Puri.

    Wishing you well,

    Danavir Goswami
    (Rupanuga Vedic College Inaugural President)

    Rupanuga Vedic College/Polestar
    5201 Paseo, Kansas City, Missouri 64110
    Tel: (407)413-9406, Fax: (816) 924-5640, Mob: (407) 407-575-7187
    E-mail: Website:
    Skype: DanavirGoswami

  2. vibhavakrsna das says :

    Hare Krsna,

    Please accept my humble obeisances. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada.

    In addition to the above numbers i have got the mobile number of the secretary of Gajapati Maharaj, Mr. Mohanty (00 91 94337315541). I called him up and showed my displeasure of whatever happened in Puri. You can call him up also. He also gave the fax number of the committee office (91 6752 220100). You can additionally fax on this number also apart from the above numbers.

    Time to rise for Prabhupada.

    your lowly servant,
    vibhava krsna das.

  3. trivikramaswami says :

    This can be turned into a positive opportunity to glorify Srila Prabhupada. If we organize a large group of devotees from all over India to travel to Jagganath Puri and have continuous Hari Nam it would surely attract attention of the media. Also leading life members could approach the media as well a their local politicians to protest this affront to Srila Prabhupada and his Iskcon movement.

    I wish I was there in India to help. Don’t let this opportunity pass to make everyone know that we are all loyal to Srila Prabhupada and won’t tolerate this insult to our Founder Acarya

    Imagine if an effigy of the prophet Mohammad was burned. What kind of reaction would we expect from his followers?

    Ys TS

  4. The email address for the Gajapati of Puri was returned as undeliverable. Reason: No response from server

  5. bvbswami says :

    All Glories to Srila Prabhupada

    Here is the new email address I obtained in March this year and have used it 4 times this year successfully:

    BVB Swami

  6. Kulapavana says :

    These are all very valid and important points, but without addressing the core issue of this controversy (celebrating Ratha Yatras by ISKCON centers on days not coinciding with the actual festival date) the chances for reconciliation are rather small.

    Perhaps some compromise can be reached, at least in regards to celebrating Ratha Yatra by our centers in India.

  7. isvaradas says :

    There is no need of compromising with the offenders. We should be extremely outrage by this severe blasphemy. They are bunch of ignorant who have no understanding of Jagannatha tattva. If Srila Prabhupada had seen it fit to follow the smarta tradition, he would have instructed us so. Ratha Yatra is not about some tradition but about cleansing our hearts so the Lord can come and sit.

    ys, Isvara dasa

  8. Pandu das says :

    Why are the priests at the Jagannatha Temple so upset about ISKCON celebrating Rathayatra on various dates. Are they only concerned about the dates for the festivals in India, or elsewhere too? I don’t know much about what goes on in India, but it would suprise me if ISKCON leaders there were trying to upstage the Rathayatra at Puri. Of course the fact that so many ISKCON members are prohibited from entering the Jagannatha Temple may be given as a possible motivation for bad relations; but still it should not be presumed that ISKCON is using alternate festival dates just to spite them. However, considering the Jagannatha Temple’s treatment of non-Hindu Hare Krishna devotees, I can understand if ISKCON responds to Puri’s demands with indifference.

    The simple explanation seems to me to be that having various festival dates allows for organizers to work on multiple festivals and for pilgrims to attend festivals in multiple locations each year as well. Other resources can also be moved from one location to another for multiple festivals. It seems that if every Rathayatra were held on the same date everywhere in the world, ISKCON resources would be stretched and devotees from around the world would be needed to support their local festival and therefor unable to attend the festival at Puri. I know I am largely ignorant of Jagannatha Culture, so I can only hope to not offend anyone; but these just seem to me like some logical points. Am I missing something? Hare Krishna.

  9. Akruranatha says :

    It is a shocking turn of events. How can the servitors of Lord Jagannatha, whom the Lord has permitted to care for Him in His transcendental abode, be so completely ignorant of the principles of devotional service?

    I understand Kulapavana’s desire to reach some sort of reconciliation on the substantive issue (i.e., whether Ratha Yatra may be celebrated on a day other than traditionally observed in Puri).

    In that regard, we can explain to the responsible leaders of the Puri temple, first of all, how valuable and auspicious the great Ratha Yatra celebrations around the world are, how they benedict the people of different parts of the world with Lord Jagannatha’s mercy. We should explain that to organize such festivals in New York and London and Paris and Los Angeles and San Francisco and Sydney and literally scores if not hundreds of other major world cities, to get the permits and also to set up displays and distribute massive quantities of prasadam and so on, cannot be done all on the specific calendar day, all over the world. For one thing, New York City might not give a permit for a parade down Fifth Avenue that day, etc. It is almost a miracle that we are able to get these permits in the first place. For another thing, we coordinate these festivals so that equipment and manpower can be deployed seriatem from one location to another.

    As I said, with those responsible leaders (if there are any), who would never dream of chanting slogans against Srila Prabhupada and burning his murthi in protest, we should be willing to explain these things and treat them with respect and express a willingness, if possible, to compromise and to consider the views of those who disagree with ISKCON.

    But there is another issue at stake, which is the question of *how* the protests have been conducted, regardless of whether there is any validity to their substantive concerns. That is an issue which has to be addressed, and the tone that Pusta Krishna and Robert Provost and others are taking is perfectly appropriate.

    Srila Prabhupada used to say that opposition to our preaching was a sign that we were being successful. It is because ISKCON is having an impact that some demonic or misguided persons are feeling motivated to protest. We cannot know the Lord’s plan, but we can rest assured that by offending Srila Prabhupada in this way, their spiritual progress will be doomed, unless they can somehow get Prabhupada’s forgiveness.

  10. from Bhaktivinoda Thakuras book Jagannatha Mandir:

    We must admit that the Pandas and their Gomasthas (generally of the Kayestha class) take a great deal of trouble for the sake of their pilgrims and sometimes advance money for their expenses on the road. The Bengal Jattris generally visit Puri at the Snana Jattra and the Ratha Jattra festivals but the upcountry men come to Puri at all times in the year. When the pilgrims arrive at Purithe Panda, whose agent brought them, visit them with some Mahaprasad near the Narendra Tank at the approach of the town. The pilgrims see Jagannath on the very day that they arrive and perform the ceremony of Pancha Tirtha on the following day or the day after that. By Pancha Tirtha is meant the business of bathing in the Tanks of Markandeya and Indradyoomna and in the sea and, after performing Sradha in those three places, seeing the emblems of Jagannath and Balarama in the temple. The Panda all along keeps silent, but on the last day he is sure to take everything that the pilgrim has and sometimes to take a bond for an amount according to the circumstances of the pilgrim. That day the Panda with all his usual gravity takes the pilgrim to an elevated roof in the northern part of the temple called Koili Vaikoontha and there uttershis Mahabakya and Shufala in order to persuade the pilgrim to pay whatever he or she has with him or her. Thus the pilgrim returns to his native place without anything but a patara of sweetmeat Mahaprasada and a few slips of Jagannath’s likeness in rude paintings!
    In fact the temple servants, one, and all, are not a bit a better than Brahminical priests who deal with the next world as a means of gain. They are rude in the extreme and quite ignorant of Hindu Theology. They never attempt to teach or learn, but often rove in quest of money. Most of them are fond of drinking a liquor prepared from Bhang and hence they have (nearly all of them) a swelling of their legs sometimes coming up to the stage of disease called elephantiasis. With all their gains, the temple servants can never store wealth because they are very careless. Besides the temple they generally keep a place called an Akhra where they meet together for the purpose of drinking Bhang and seeing the dance of young boys clad in the dress of females! We will try to give you an account of all the Akhras in Puri in my next paper, and as this paper has become much longer than we at first intended, we take leave of you for the present

  11. pustakrishna says :

    This is attempt number two. My first attempt at doing this was probably a little too heavy and critical, and the Dandavats’ editors are a wise and kinder group, but I will try to do this with a gentler mind. Mayapurchandra das has apparently expressed “solidarity” with the pandas of Jagannath Puri. We must be very cautious in leaping over the expressed instructions of Srila Prabhupad if we want to keep some faith-connection with His Divine Grace. We must not look upon the guidance of Srila Prabhupad as something mundane, for us to accept if we like it. Obviously, the realm of love of God, Krishna-prema, is ‘lawless’ by our standards, placing the satisfaction of Sri Krishna, Lord Jagannath, above all else. This is the standard of Vraja-lila, and this is the underlying mood of union in separation that the form of Lord Jagannath reminds us of. The Brajbasis want Krishna in Vrindaban, where love for Krishna in intimate rasas which are jnana-sunya, predominates over any conception of Krishna as Godhead. The drawing of Krishna back to Vrindaban in the hearts of the Brajbasis IS the mood of the rathayatra celebration in Gaudiya-vaishnavism. This is noted in the lila of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu! If Srila Prabhupad celebrated this festival in various places and at various times, that is the standard which his disciples, followers, and descendants should follow. I would challenge anyone to imagine what Srila Prabhupad’s reaction would be to any upstart who might criticize his judgement in these matters. We do not need to be ‘educated’ by the pandas who have made a living off of the generosity of visitors to the Jagannath Temple. And now, their real identity has been exposed with their behavior toward Srila Prabhupad’s form, and other criticism. Beware of the association you choose. Sri Krishna is all-knowing. And, Sri Krishna will not tolerate the offenses against His pure devotees. Pusta Krishna das

  12. bhakta piyush says :

    Is there any history of such an act being performed in India?, i.e. one religious group publicly offending a faultless saintly leader of another in such a way?
    I have heard of such acts only in the political arena, are they trying to set a precedent to destroy whatever little religious culture and decency that remains, under the pretext of following ritual? Have we become so degraded in this age of Kali? An unspeakable heinous act was performed which can only be viewed as demoniac madness, upon the faultless personality of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada.
    Is the glorifying of Lord Jagannatha, the Lord of the universe, within this tiny tiny world, a bad thing according to them? Is it not that the pastimes of the Lord are happening simultaneously throughout creation? Is blind dogmatic ritual all they know? Is there no shame, no embarrassment? Have those they call brahmanas, priests and spiritual leaders become hard hearted and politically minded? Where has the culture of gentle men gone?

  13. scooty.ram says :

    “It is a shocking turn of events. How can the servitors of Lord Jagannatha, whom the Lord has permitted to care for Him in His transcendental abode, be so completely ignorant of the principles of devotional service?”

    I cant simply understand or comprehend a convincing answer to this.
    It is indeed a shame!

    How can someone who daily goes to jagannath temple,take jagannath prasad,lives by devotional service end up doing this most abominable act of burning murtis.We say even if we accidentally perform bhakti, the effect or benefits are manifold.
    Ofcourse the pandas are not demons or athiest acting like a devotee.

    I know many pandas who appreciate and welcome iskcon devotees.Is it a problem with a bad leader?No clue!

    I am very much interested in knowing the inside information as to who exactly were those people and who is the person behind and what the real intent was.

    What be it ,it was an act of blaspheme and something really fishy is going on!

    Request iskcon members to handle this most generously and modestly though it calls for a severe punishment!Afterall it is a movement of Sri Chaitanya and Nityananda who forgave jagai and madhai.

    An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.


  14. Well said Dashan-it seems the best to ignore those Pandas their intentionts are not noble
    ,so this is one way to avoid such offenders to Srila simply ignoring them….

  15. tulasi-priya says :

    ISKCON has been celebrating Ratha Yatra on its own schedule and wherever we desire (or rather, whenever and wherever Lord Jagannatha desires) since 1967. Why is there such an uproar at this late date? Is there some kind of politics involved in this? Does the Jagannatha Sena object to Ratha Yatras held at non-tradtional times in all countries, or only in India, fearful that revenues will be lost if pilgrims can go to Ratha-Yatra in other states besides Orissa? I don’t understand exactly what the objections are, given our long history of staging these parades. Could somebody clue me in?