Why only Hindus are allowed in Jagannath Temple Puri?

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Last Updated on January 14, 2022 by asoulwindow

Who is allowed in Jagannath Temple of Puri?

Who can go inside Jagannath Temple? Only Hindus by descent are allowed inside the Jagannath Temple of Puri. It is a strict rule and exceptions are not even made for even famous politicians, sportsmen, actor etc. Only Hindus are allowed to offer their prayers to Jagannath Bhagwan.

People of religions which originated from Sanatan Dharm or Hinduism such as Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism are also allowed inside Shri Jagannath Puri Dham.

Rath Yatra at Puri. Pic by: Prakash Kumar Biswal

Only Hindus are allowed in Jagannath Temple

All humans are alike in the eyes of Bhagwan Shri Jagannath – the master of the universe. Then why the board outside Shri Jagannath Puri temple clearly states, “Only Hindus are allowed.” The board put by British exists even today. This is a centuries old tradition. Let us find out more in this comprehensive blog!

Are Non-Hindus Allowed in Jagannath Temple?

As per a small stone slab at the entrance of Jagannath Temple complex, it is clearly mentioned in five languages viz Hindi, Odia, Bengali, English and Urdu that, “None but only orthodox Hindus or Sanatanis are allowed to enter the temple.” It is an age-old tradition, not broken for even the ineligible head of states and Queens/Kings.

Non-Hindus are not allowed to gain access to the inside precincts of Shri Jagannath Temple. It is much like non-Muslims are not allowed to visit Mecca and central Medina. Or Non Parsis are not allowed inside their Agiary or Fire Temple in Mumbai, Gujarat etc.

How can non-Hindus get a darshan of deities?

However, that said, unlike Agiary of Mumbai or Udvada in Gujarat and Mecca-Medina in Saudi Arabia, you can still get a view or darshan of what lies inside the campus of Jagannath Mandir. Most Non-Hindus climb atop the roof of the adjoining Raghunandan Library and offer their respects to Lord Jagannath.

I was born a Hindu so I didn’t need to do that. You can however not get a direct darshan of the deity because they are worshipped inside the garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum. The good part is that you can have a peek inside the campus of Jagannath Puri.

Everyone gets darshan during Rath Yatra

How can followers of other religions get a darshan of Lord Jagannath?

Once a year during the breathtakingly grand Rath Yatra, in the month of June-July, the deities step out and give darshan to people of all faith, nationalities and castes.

No other deity from any other Hindu temple ever steps out of the sanctum sanctorum of the temples they inhabit except the deities of Jagannath Temple at Puri. Jagannath Mahaprabhu, the Lord of the universe is thus accessible to everyone.

During Rath Yatra, everyone irrespective of religion, color, age, gender, sexuality and caste are allowed to have a darshan of Lord Jagannath. Having said that, one must bear in mind that even during Rath Yatra, non-Hindus are not allowed to climb up on the sacred rath or chariot or walk inside the temple premises.

Non-Hindus can have darshan only when idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra ji and Subhadra ji are taken around on a procession on the Grand-road of Puri.

Why are non-Hindus not allowed inside Jagannath Temple?

As per the temple management and priests, the reason for not allowing non-Hindus is that the holy temple was looted and plundered through 17 attacks on Jagannath Temple by Muslim invaders and foreigners. Through despite the many attacks these evil forces failed from harming the idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra ji and Subhadra devi.

The idols were hidden at different places every time the temple was attacked. For 144 years, Bhagwan Jagannath has to stay away from his home, the Jagannath Mandir. The story of Jagannath temple is the story of hundreds of years of the struggle, patience and sacrifice of great ancestors of Hindus.

Never once did they let their faith shake or surrender to evil external forces. It will not be an overstatement to call the struggle of Puri as the struggle saga of India.

Still not able to come to terms with the massive destruction in the past, the Jagannath Temple management has brought in practice strict rules and regulations.

Was Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi denied entry in Puri Temple?

Indian politician Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi was not allowed inside Shri Jagannath Temple because he had showed up with an entourage of Muslims and Christians. Since the temple management doesn’t allow non-Hindus, therefore Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi was denied entry, despite his clout and privileges.

Indian politician Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave and his entourage was prohibited from entering Jagannath Temple in 1934 C.E. because he tried to get inside with a group of Dalits, Christians and Muslims (as if to make a point). Enraged, he contested the non-entry with his typical protests which included a march called ‘Harijana Padayatra’. The protest march began from the Singhadwar gate of Jagannath Mandir. His demand was to allow access to all.

Why was Indira Gandhi not allowed in Puri Temple?

Did you know that former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi was denied access inside the Shri Jagannath Temple? In the year 1984, she was denied entry inside the Shri Jagannath Temple. This was also the year she was assassinated while still serving as the Prime Minister of India.

Indira Gandhi was refused entry inside the Shri Jagannath Temple on the grounds that she was married to a Parsi called Feroze Jehangir Gandhi, which is fair, given non-Parsis are not allowed inside their Fire temple or Agiaries either. Technically, she was not a Hindu.

She had no option but to have a darshan from the adjoining Raghunandan Library. So even if the Prime Minister of India is not a Hindu, she or he will not be allowed inside the temple.

Shri Jagannath Puri. Pic by Suman Shekhar Rajhans

Is Gandhi family Not Allowed in Jagannath Temple?

This is a commonly asked question. Here is all you wanted to know. After Indira Gandhi was refused entry in the Jagannath Temple, no other member of the Gandhi family attempted to gain access inside the temple.

Even her grandson Rahul Gandhi, who in a bid to pedal his soft Hindu image, visited Kedarnath in Uttarakhand and Kailash Parbat and Mansarovar Lake in Tibet but he never tried to visit Sri Jagannath Temple, expecting denial of access as he is not a Hindu either.

As per the Jagannath Puri management, they consider Indira Gandhi, Rajeev Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadhra as Parsis. The grave of Firoze Gandhi can still be visited in a Parsi graveyard in Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh. The Purohit of Nehru family as well as the historians, priests and sevayaks of the Puri Jagannath temple and have raised serious questions on the Gotra of Rahul Gandhi.

In the year, 1988, Sonia Gandhi, the daughter in law of Indira Gandhi was not allowed inside the Pashupati Nath temple in Nepal as well. Pashupati Nath temple is a Hindu shrine which is devoted to Shiv Bhagwan.

I have written detailed guides on many of these spiritual places in India and Tibet. You must read all travel guides on A Soul Window, which also happens to be the No.1 travel blog of India and Top Travel Blog from India.

Who are the famous people who were not allowed entry inside Shri Jagannath Temple?

Below is the list of well-known people who were not allowed inside Shri Jagannath Temple in order of their occurrence:

  • Kabir: Born in 1398 C.E. in the family of Muslim weavers, the mystical poet Kabir was not allowed entry in the temple as he was wearing a Muslim skull cap. However, later as per a dream which Pandas or priests saw, Lord Jagannath asked them to find Kabir and allow him a darshan, which they eventually did.
  • Guru Nanak: Guru Nanak, the Sikh guru, was denied entry inside Shri Jagannath Temple in the year 1508 C.E. because he was accompanied with Mardana, his Muslim disciple.
  • Rabindranath Tagore: The much-acclaimed Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore (1861 C.E. -1941 C.E.) was also not permitted to have a darshan at the Jagannath Mandir because he was a Pirali Brahmin.
  • Bhim Rao Ambedkar: The chief architect of Indian Constitution, B.R. Ambekdar was denied entry in Jagannath Temple in July 1945 because he belonged to lower caste.
  • Vinobha Bhave: He was not allowed as he accompanied Gandhi in the same event and year mentioned above.
  • Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: The Iskcon founder voluntarily refused to enter the temple in January 1977 till the authorities allowed his disciples to enter the temple. He visited Puri on invitation to serve as a speaker to a sabha or assembly of priests, temple authorities and scholars.
  • Biswanath Das: The former chief Minister (1971-1972) of Odisha (then Orissa) was a disciple of Mohan Das Karam Chand Gandhi and one of the writers of Indian Constitution.

Are Muslims allowed in Jagannath Temple?

This is a frequently asked question. Well, the answer is no. Muslims are strictly NOT allowed in Jagannath Temple?

Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) holds the right to bar Muslims from entering Shri Jagannath Puri temple.

Why Muslims are not allowed in Jagannath Temple?

Indian scholar Dr. Surendra Mishra clearly mentions in his book Attack and Robberies on Jagannath Mandir that there was no restriction on the entry of Shri Jagannath Puri until it suffered several Islamic attacks and plundering. Dr. Surendra is a retired research officer in Sri Jagannath Sanskrit University, Puri.

In fact, Salabega, who was one of the most famous bhakt or devotee of Prabhu Shri Jagannath was born as a Muslim.

After several Islamic attacks on Shri Jagannath Temple, it was decided by the temple management that Muslims will henceforth not be allowed inside the temple precincts.

Much like the world-famous Somnath temple of Gujarat in West India, the temple of Puri suffered 17-18 attacks by Islamic plunderers, who stole the wealth, damaged the temple and desecrated the idols of presiding deities. For a long time, the idol of Prabhu Jagannath was relocated from one place to another to keep Him away from the plunderers.

Thanks to the persistence of the local Brahmin priests, the Islamic invaders were unsuccessful in demolishing the Puri temple and build a mosque on its location, like they did in Kashi, Mathura and Ayodhya.

Due to this, the temple management made the rule of not allowing non-Muslims inside the Puri temple officially since 1st June, 1660 C.E. The attacks on temples started as early as 1340 C.E. and in fact, Muslims were allowed inside the temple till 1620 C.E. But that stopped in order to keep the temple premises safe, secure and pure!

This is why Muslims are not allowed in Jagannath Puri Temple.

Can Dalit and lower caste people enter Jagannath Temple?

It is a myth that Dalit and the members of supposedly lower castes are not allowed to enter Jagannath Temple?

Not many know that it is the member of the Kumbhara or potter community who traditionally prepare the earthen pots for cooking the Mahaprasad. Also, to add, the ancestors of Daitapati, who are one of the most privileged class of priests in the Puri temple were tribal people. They are an inseparable part of the Rath Yatra and Nabakalebara festivities.

Other class of sevadars or servitors which include the people from Bishoi, Bhoi, Bimanabadu and Suara community are also not upper-class Brahmins. Not only are these so-called lower caste people allowed inside Shri Jagannath Puri Temple but they are also part of daily rituals inside the temple. Their castes don’t come in the way of their duty to Bhagwan Shri Jagannath!

Was Indian President Shri Ram Nath Kovind not allowed inside Puri Temple?

It is a myth that Indian President Shri Ram Nath Kovind was not allowed inside Shri Jagannath Puri Temple. It was a rumor but let me debunk this theory.

In fact, the second Dalit President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind and his wife Shrimati Savita Kovind had visited Jagannath Puri temple of Odisha, without any hassle.

Rashtrapati Bhavan had clearly denied any misbehavior or obstacle which stopped them from entering the temple campus and garbhagriha.

Can a Buddhist enter Jagannath Temple?

Yes. Since Buddhists had their origin in Hinduism, they are allowed to enter Puri Jagannath Temple.

Even in the year 2005, the Queen of Thailand attempted to enter Jagannath Temple.

She was denied entry in the temple, despite being a devout Buddhist (who are allowed) because she was a foreign woman. Only Indian Buddhists are allowed inside the temple and not foreign. She belonged to South East Asia.

Can Jain enter Jagannath Temple?

Yes. Since Jains originated from Hinduism, they are allowed to enter Puri Temple.

Guru Nanak Connection: Can Sikhs enter Jagannath Temple?

Yes. Sikhs are allowed to enter Jagannath Temple, because the root of Sikhism is Sanatan Dharm.  If we walk through the bygone chapters of Indian history, we can see that Sikhs were always allowed inside Shri Jagannath Puri.

Guru Nanak ji, who was the founder of Sikhism and the much revered first Sikh Guru had visited Shri Jagannath Puri twice, first in the year 1508 and later in 1510 C.E. This is when he met Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. After visiting Puri temple, Guru Nanak ji headed towards Sri Lanka via Rameshwaram.

In fact, you will be surprised to know that Himmat Chand Kahar ji, one of the panch pyare or the beloved five belonged to Puri. He was later renamed as Bhai Himmat Singh Ji.

The nearby Mangumath Gurudwara, earlier known as Mangumath Ashram, was constructed by Bhai Almast. He was a renowned Udasi preacher in 17th century C.E.

Also, Bhagat Jaidev, who was a poet and noted saint of Odisha is also mentioned in the hymns of the holy scriptureGuru Granth Sahib.

Pic by Suman Shekhar Rajhans

Can foreigners enter Jagannath Temple?

No. In the year 2006, A Swiss citizen donated INR 1 crore and 78 lakh but even she was not allowed inside the temple because she was a Christian and foreigners. Clearly neither money nor political muscle can help you find your way inside the holy temple.

It is interesting to note here that ISKCON members, which includes many foreigners such as Russians, are rightly not allowed entry into Puri Jagannath Mandir, because they are not Hindu by birth. ISKCON devotees, despite being Krishna Bhakt, are not allowed because most of them are Christians.

Some foreigners from nations like Argentina in South America succeeded in entering the temple premises by deceit but were caught and fined.

Are Jeans, shorts and skirts allowed inside Shri Jagannath Temple

While jeans are allowed to wear inside Shri Jagannath Temple, shorts are not allowed to wear inside the temple premises. You must respect the sanctity of the place. I remember similar rules in Ajmer Dargah of Rajasthan and Temple of the sacred tooth relic in Kandy in Sri Lanka.

That said, the servitors inside the temple are not allowed to wear Jeans. They can only wear pre-Mughal and pre-British Indian traditional dresses such as dhoti, gamuchha and patta. The dress codes are strictly followed by all Hindus.

Is Mobile allowed in Puri Jagannath Temple?

No. Mobile phones are strictly not allowed inside Shri Jagannath Temple so that devotees can focus on connecting with the God. Also, with people misusing mobile phones, it is an avoidable nuisance in sacred spaces.

Is camera allowed inside Shri Jagannath Puri?

Camera of any kind whether DSLR, action camera, drone or mobile cameras are strictly prohibited inside Shri Jagannath Temple. You can submit them in the locker outside the temple.

Is Photography allowed inside Shri Jagannath Puri Temple?

Photography is strictly banned inside Shri Jagannath Puri Temple. You may take pictures and videos of Puri Tempe from outside. If caught carrying any kind of camera inside the temple, the offender gets punished with heavy fines.

What happens if a non-Hindu is caught trespassing inside the Jagannath Temple in Puri?

Strict action against the offender is taken by the concerned authorities of the management team of Jagannath Puri. No non-Hindu, irrespective of their political connections and clout is spared if they are caught entering the holy Jagannath Temple by deceit.

When someone ineligible is caught entering the temple premises, he/she is requested to leave. The temple is then closed for darshan on that particular day. Following traditional rituals, the temple premises are then cleansed.

Why some people try to force their way inside Shri Jagannath Puri?

Every once in a while, some misguided and uneducated people try to disrupt the peace of Shri Jagannath Puri by forcing their way inside despite not being a Hindu. These people have no respect and understanding of the local culture of Hindus. Their unruly behavior is often encouraged by political parties clandestinely. 

Why this rule is necessary?

We must respect the local sentiments and the Jagannath culture and abide by the rules which were set hundreds of years ago. Even today threat looms large on Hindu pilgrimages such as Amarnath Yatra and Hindu temple such as Mata Vaishno Devi and Akshardhan Temple. This is why the security at these important temples is so tight!

Conclusion

Here are my final thoughts! To summarize, I feel it is totally justified to not allow non-Hindus inside Shri Jagannath Puri temple of Odisha. Not allowing anyone apart from people of one faith is also a very normal practice in many religions such as Parsi culture and Islamic shrines.

Having faced as many as 17 Islamic invasions over hundreds of years, it is but natural for the Puri Jagannath temple to not allow a certain section of society inside the sacred temple premises. This is the easiest way to ensure the purity of Shri Jagannath Puri!

The view from my Soul Window is wise!

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