Odisha: For the first time in 400 years, men were allowed to touch the five idols in Ma Panchubarahi temple in Odisha’s Kendrapara district. The temple is a no entry zone for men; only Dalit women are allowed to perform the rituals and touch the deities.
On April 20, the Women Priests let five men enter the temple for a day to relocate the deities, as rising sea levels threatened the Satabhaya village, a remote cluster of hutments where no more than a thousand people live, say reports.
Unlike any other temple in the country, Ma Panchubarahi temple is looked after by five Dalit women priests. The temple is cleaned, preparations for the daily puja are done only by married Dalit women from the local sea facing village and there has been no exception in the last 400 years. Global warming and rising levels of the Bay of Bengal forced the temple to break its tradition. The women pujaris could not move the five heavy idols, believed to be around 1.5 tonnes each, carved in black stone. A group of five men were allowed into the inner rooms to remove the idols, said one of the women priests. The temple has been relocated to a new structure around 12 km inland and the priests have performed the ‘purification’ ritual, say villagers. Locals believe Ma Panchubarahi protects them from natural calamities.
The Odisha State Disaster Management Authority has decided to rehabilitate the disappearing seaside villages under the World Bank- assisted Odisha Disaster Recovery Project. Residents of villages like Satabhaya, facing aggressive erosion are being shifted to Bagapatia relocation site in Kendrapara. Sources in the state government say, relocation and construction of new houses have been expedited.
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