As Rising Sea Levels threaten Satbhaya village in Kendrapara district of Odisha, the need to relocate led to a break in the almost 400 year old tradition with men being allowed into the Ma Panchubarahi temple for the first time and touch the idols.
The Ma Panchubarahi temple has been a no-entry zone for men and only Dalit women are allowed to perform the rituals and touch the deities, said a NDTV report.
On April 20, the women priests of the temple allowed as many as five men to enter the premises and touch idols in order to relocate them to a different place inside the temple over fears that rising sea levels may threaten the Satabhaya village.
The temple also has a tradition of permitting five Dalit women priests to take care of it. Daily pujas and other preparations at the temple are taken care of by married Dalit women from the village. Since last 400 years, there has been no deviation from this tradition. The major reason behind moving out f the tradition is the rise sea levels of the Bay of Bengal. As shifting could not be done by the women priests, the help from men was taken.
These idols are said to weigh 1.5 tonnes each and are made of black stones, said a report in The Financial Express (FE). From previous locations, these idols have been shifted 12 km inland. As per villagers, women priests performed rituals to purify five idols. It is a common belief among locals that deities save them from natural disasters.
The Odisha State Disaster Management Authority along with the World Bank has set up a project so as to relocate the residents of the disappearing villages. Under the project, new houses will be provided to the people. According to some reports, Satabhaya village is being engulfed by the sea with each passing day. Since 1930, the area has also been reduced from 350 sq km to 140 sq km.
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