Bhubaneswar: In an apparent bid to prevent any possible confrontation with Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati while implementing its Puri Wold Heritage City plans, the Odisha government has granted autonomy to Govardhan Mutt, one of the four Hindu religious seats set up by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century.
The autonomous tag was accorded to the Puri Mutt after necessary amendments to the Orissa Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1951, and later passed by the Odisha Assembly on Saturday.
The amendment gives Puri Mutt parity with the other three Hindu monasteries of Dwarka, Shringeri and Joshimath, all established by Adi Shankaracharya and managed without government interference.
When the state government in October had announced to exclude this oldest monastery in Puri from the purview of the Odisha Hindu Religious Endowment Act, 1951, the Shankaracharya had pushed for total autonomy. He had long been demanding the end of all state control of temples and mutts, arguing that it leads to mismanagement and a decline of Hindu religion.
“The government should also take into consideration the fact that Govardhan Mutt is also under the Jagannath Temple Act,” he had told a national daily in an interview.
The Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1955, regulates the management system of Jagannath Temple’s affairs and its properties.
“There is a need to consider how much impact the Jagannath Temple Act will keep having on the mutt despite it being freed from under the Endowments Act,” he had further said.
The Naveen Patnaik-led state government recently drew flak for pulling down a number of ancient Hindu monasteries, including 700-year-old Emar Math, 300-year-old Languli Math, also called Nanguli Math, and 521-year-old Bada Akhada Math, around the 12th Century Jagannath Temple in Puri with the Supreme Court advising it to consult Hindu seers and affected stakeholders before going ahead with the demolition drive.
This move to keep the mutt out of the administrative purview of the state government is being seen as a step to appease the Sharkaracharya, who had been quite vocal in the past and expressed his displeasure over interference in affairs of religious institutions.
The government and the Sharkaracharya have been at loggerheads several times in the past. He had skipped age-old ritual during Rath Jatra in 2014, after the government extended him a conditional invitation to come to the chariots “alone”.