In a disturbing development concerning the Hindu faith and culture, so far unknown miscreants damaged nearly 40 chullahs (earthen ovens) in the Rosha Sala, the holy kitchen of 12th century Shree Jagannath Temple, Puri. The kitchen, an important part of the temple that is regarded as among the holiest of shrines in India, is prohibited for outsiders. However, someone or some people caused partial damage to these earthen hearths last night.
Puri Collector Samarth Verma said over the phone today that a joint inquiry had been ordered to look into the incident. “We are examining footages of closed-circuit television cameras to ascertain involvement or one or more than one persons. Strict actions will be taken against the culprits,” he said.
The bureaucrat said, “the daily rituals have, however, not been affected due to partial damage to the chullahs.”
The Jagannath temple’s massive kitchen room has 240 chullahs. More than 500 sevayats belonging to suara (cook) and mahasuara are involved in the preparation of 56 types of food — referred to as chhappan bhog in northern India — including different varieties of rice, cake and sweets on daily basis. These are offered to deities — Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra.
Spread over 15,000 sq ft, the kitchen as several large halls with height of about 20 ft.
“Enough food is prepared in the kitchen to feed thousands of devotees every day and on occasion of festivals, numbers of devotees see a massive jump,” said Narasingha Pratihari, a sevayat.
The chullahs are uniquely built and the height of most of these is about 4 ft each so that cooks can prepare food, standing. Outsiders are not allowed to enter the kitchen and they can have glimpse of inside structures through holes.
Insiders say a rivalry between two groups led to the incident.
Some of the chullahs were put to use again after minor repair, but it would take two days to restore them to the original shape.