In a landmark decision, the Jagannath Temple administration has laid a ramp at the North Gate of the 12th century shrine, thereby allowing entry of differently-abled people. On Thursday evening, 140 disabled persons from Gujarat entered the temple using the ramp and offered prayer to the divine Trinity. The temple administration had provided special vehicles and wooden wheelchairs to the persons to be taken inside the temple.
Apparently, there is no written rule yet on either allowing or disallowing wheelchairs into the shrine.
The man behind the initiative was Kanhu Bhai Tailor, president of Surat-based Disable Welfare Trust of India. Kanhu Bhai, who has been fighting for the rights for disabled people for over two decades, had earlier taken up the issue with Puri Collector Arvind Agarwal. Apparently, Kanhu Bhai had visited the temple in September this year and he was denied entry in his wheelchair. Instead, he was lifted by some people and taken inside the temple. Peeved over the treatment meted out to him, he had urged Agarwal to set up a ramp inside the shrine as it has been done in other important temples across the country.
Subsequently, the temple administration held a meeting and it was resolved to lay a 50-metre-long and six-feet-wide ramp in the North Gate of the temple. The ramp extends up to Kurm Bedha of the temple.
As a goodwill gesture, the temple priests offered ‘bhog’ to the differently-abled devotees while the Puri administration provided them vehicles for sightseeing at Konark. The cheerful devotees expressed their happiness over the gesture.