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Rat Menace Hits Puri’s 12th-Century Jagannath Temple

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The authorities of the Jagannath Temple in Puri may need a Pied Piper from Hamelin to get rid of rodents that have infested the 12th-century shrine. The rodents, whose numbers increased manifold during the absence of devotees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been nibbling away the attires of sibling gods Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra, seated on the ‘Ratna Singhasan’ (sacred altar) in the shrine.

The servitors and priests have raised an alarm that the rodents may damage the wooden idols of the deities, though temple administrator Jitendra Sahoo assuaged the fear.

“There were few rodents in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple but their number increased significantly after the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ramachandra Dasmohapatra, a servitor, said.

The rodents also create a disturbance when the priests perform rituals, said Satyanarayan Puspalak, representing the group of servitors who decorate the deities with garlands.

“The rats devour the flowers offered to the deities and nibble away the valuable attires of the gods,” Mr Pushpalak said.

Though the rodents cause a nuisance in the ‘Garva Gruha’ (sanctum sanctorum), the servitors are not permitted to kill animals or poison them inside the temple, said Bhaskar Mishra, a researcher in the Jagannath culture.

“The temple records of rights (ROR) mention how to deal with rodents, bats, and monkeys found on the temple premises. One cannot take away the life of any living creature as stipulated by the temple rules,” Mr Mishra said.

Though the population of rodents increased due to the absence of devotees inside the temple during the lockdown in 2020 and 2021, the rodents are not new to the place, Mishra said.

Some animals live on the Jagannath Temple premises for generations as they get an adequate quantity of the leftover ‘Mahaprasad’, he said. “The temple ROR clearly states that some specific servitors are given the responsibility to catch the rodents alive and release them outside,” Mishra said.

Temple administrator Jitendra Sahoo said that the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) was aware of the rodent menace.

“We are laying traps to catch the rats alive and are releasing them outside according to the provisions adopted over the years. We are not allowed to use rat poison in the temple,” Sahoo said.

Noting that there was no danger to the wooden deities, Sahoo said they are being regularly polished with sandalwood and camphor.

The Wildlife Division of Puri said monkeys, bats, pigeons and even snakes can be found on the premises of the Jagannath temple. PTI AAM MM MM

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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