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Puri temple to allow people in wheelchairs


Bhubaneswar : The Jagannath temple in Puri, one of the most revered Hindu shrines, has decided to open its doors to wheelchair-bound devotees, an official said. But the temple authorities have taken no decision on building ramps for the wheelchairs.

“We had a proposal to make special arrangements for the handicapped devotees. We are seriously considering the proposal. We will implement it soon,” said Kashinath Pujapanda, a temple official.

The 12th century temple in Puri town of Orissa, considered one of the four temples that Hindu devotees must visit during their lifetime, has a strict entry code. The entry of non-Hindus or people wearing caps and leather belts is strictly prohibited.

A disabled person cannot go into the temple with a wheelchair. But the temple authorities do allow entry to disabled, old and paralysed people with the help of family members and temple servitors.

“Every human being passes through phases in his life where he or she is dependent on someone else. The Lord (Jagannath) himself is limbless. But the anomaly is that wheelchair-bound limbless devotees can’t have access to the Lord,” said Ravi Tripathy, a handicapped and disabled rights activist.

The rights forums have also demanded ramps in the shrine.

Pujapanda said wheelchairs from outside would not be allowed. The temple authorities will provide the wheelchairs.

Several disability rights groups had last month given a memorandum to the temple authorities to make facilities for the handicapped. A group of disabled has also decided to enter the temple on wheelchairs on Oct 2 — the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi — as a mark of protest.

“A disabled person often faces problems if he or she wishes to enter the temple. A handicapped devotee is often taunted by the temple servitors. Though the temple claims to have provisions to carry disabled devotees through temple servitors, I being a woman would not like to be carried by male servitors,” said Shruti Mohapatra, the convener of the Women’s Cell of Disabled People’s International.