PURI: In an unprecedented incident, unidentified miscreants damaged at least 40 chulhas (earthen stoves) used for cooking Mahaprasad in the grand kitchen of Sri Jagannath temple here on Saturday night.
President of Suar Mahasuar Nijog (association of cooks) Narayan Mahasuar said the incident seemed to have taken place late in the night after completion of rituals. The dinner was cooked for the Trinity after Sandhya Dhoopa and taken for offering to the deities. The kitchen was then cleaned and closed for the day.
“On Sunday morning when the kitchen was opened, we found at least 40 stoves were vandalised. The incident was immediately brought to the notice of Srimandir authorities,” he informed. Narayan demanded a thorough probe into the incident and culprits arrested at the earliest.
Following the incident, Puri Collector Samarth Verma and temple administrator AK Jena along with police rushed to the Srimandir kitchen to take stock of the situation. Repair work was carried out following which some stoves started functioning and the morning bhog was prepared for the deities and devotees.
Sources said there are around 240 earthen stoves in the temple kitchen where Mahaprasad is cooked for lakhs of devotees every day. The kitchen of Sri Jagannath temple is considered the largest in the world.
Jena said investigation will be conducted into incident and action taken against those responsible for damaging the stoves.
Meanwhile, the incident has raised eyebrows in Puri town with residents accusing the temple security of laxity. Ajit Samal, a local, said Srimandir is under surveillance round-the-clock by police and the temple’s own security personnel besides CCTV cameras. “How can anybody enter the kitchen and damage the stoves?” he questioned.
Jena said the Srimandir authorities have questioned four servitors in this connection. No formal complaint has been filed in Lion’s Gate police station till reports last came in.