BHUBANESWAR: A tourist from Russia had a harrowing time while taking photographs of Jagannath Temple in Puri by climbing atop a watchtower on Friday. The 28-year-old Russian, Sergei Ivanov, who identified himself as a civil engineer from Moscow apologized to police and was let off.
While the 12th century shrine is off limits to non-Hindus, there is restriction on visitors to climb the watchtower, meant for police. At present, it is being repaired. “There was no policeman at the watchtower, whose gate was open. There was signboard about restriction. I had no idea about the rule,” said Ivanov.
A shrine servitor spotted him taking photographs in the morning and informed the temple police. He was immediately taken to the temple office where police verified his credentials. “We checked his passport and visa, which are valid. The photographs were deleted from his camera. Since there is no law to punish anyone if anybody clicks photographs by climbing the watchtower, we allowed him to go,” said SP (Puri) Ashish Kumar Singh.
Considering the “no entry” diktat for non-Hindus to Jagannath Temple, the shrine administration in 2006 announced to erect an elevated platform outside the temple to facilitate foreigners to take photographs. But the announcement fell by the wayside.
Till recently, non-Hindus used to climb the Emar mutt for a view of the Jagannath Temple. Now portions of the mutt were pulled down as it turned unsafe. In the past, a host of non-Hindu dignitaries like former Thai Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and envoys of Thailand, Japan, Norway, Italy and New Zealand viewed the inner complex of the shrine from the terrace of a library, located in the mutt.
Recently, the tourism department toyed with the idea of constructing a replica of the Jagannath Temple to help non-Hindus have a feel of the shrine.