Italy-born Odissi dancer manhandled in Puri

Bhubaneswar, July 22 : An Italy-born famous Odissi dancer Ileana Citaristi has alleged that she was beaten up by the servitors on the chariot of Lord Jagannath in Puri after she "refused" to pay money for worshipping.

The Padma Shri awardee on Sunday said the priests beat her on the head when she refused to pay the bribe they demanded for paying obeisance.

The dancer has been residing in Odisha since 1979.

"I was so shocked...Every year deities come out of their abode to give darshan to all, especially those who cannot go inside the temple in normal times. I climbed the chariot to pay my obeisance in the morning. When I was atop the chariot, two servitors demanded Rs. 1000. But I refused," she told media.

Citaristi also said the servitors shouted at her, calling "foreigner.. foreigner" (non-Hindu) and so she could not climb the chariot.

Citaristi lodged a complaint with the Jagannath Temple Administration (JTA) which oversees the affairs of the Shree Jagannath Temple, Puri.

While, the Shankaracharya of Puri has not stated clearly who are eligible to climb the chariots carrying the deities, priests of the Shri Jagannath Temple have been reported to restrict the entry of foreign nationals and non-Hindus into the 12th century shrine.

However, during the chariot festival, devotees irrespective of their caste, creed and religion are allowed to pay their obeisance.

--IBNS (Posted on 22-07-2013)

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