Ardhanariswara Desecration Charge Puts Heritage Scholar In Dock; Purists Move Police Seeking Action

Bhubaneswar: A complaint has been lodged at Lingaraj police station in Odisha capital against a heritage scholar for allegedly desecrating Hindu deities.

The complainant has accused Jitu Mishra, who is co-founder of Sarna Educational & Cultural Services and conducts Heritage Walks for Odisha Tourism, of desecrating the idol of Ardhanariswara at Vaital Temple, which is under ASI protection. “He can be seen removing the vestment of the idol and then crumpling and discarding it in the clipping which he posted on social media. The video has gone viral on the internet and raised the hackles of many Hindu organisations,” Prafulla Swain of Old Town area said in his compliant.

Claiming that Mishra was a regular offender, he further stated that he had earlier been warned by the priests in this regard. “He regularly takes visitors into the sanctum sanctorum of the living temples like Parashurameshvara, Mukteshwar, Kedar Gouri, Vaital, and other shrines, where entry of non-Hindus is restricted,” he alleged.

Swain also raised objection to pre-wedding shoots and filming of advertisements on the premises of protected monuments and said that it hurts the sentiments of the devotees.

Condemning the act, Jagannath Sena convenor Priyadarshan Patnaik said that if no action is taken against the perpetrator, protests would be held both at the ASI office and the police station. He also demanded that the person be debarred from entering any temple and removed from the Odisha Tourism Heritage Walks.

Ramesh Shinde, national spokesperson of Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, visited the temple on March 5 to conduct an inquiry. “The idol of Ardhanariswara is kept covered at this temple. We object to disrobing of the idol by the tourist guide and demand action against him,” he said.

He will submit his report to the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and the ASI.

Other Hindu organisations like the Kalinga Sena, VHP, and Bharat Raksha Manch have also expressed dismay over the act.

Mishra told Odisha Bytes that he is technically qualified for conducting such tours, which is a state government’s initiative. “These are ornate carvings and anyone covering them with cloths needs to take permission from the ASI since these are protected structures and any damage to the idols can land them in jail,” he said.

He, however, clarified that it was not intended at hurting religious sentiments.

Except for Lingaraj Temple here and Jagannath Temple in Puri, there is no restriction on entry of non-Hindus into any other shrines in the state, he further asserted.

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