Bhubaneswar: More than two months after a 44-year-old servant from Jagannath temple in Puri was shot dead not far from the temple, a servant from Lokanath temple in the holy city was shot dead by another servant just outside of the 12th century monument on Tuesday evening.
Puri Police said Sibaram Patra, a servant of Loknath Temple, a famous Shiva temple, was shot dead near Emar Mutt, just 20 feet from the main gate of Jagannath Temple, by another Chandan servant Barik around 9 p.m. Patra was riding a bicycle when Barik fired two bullets at him, one of which hit him in the head.
“He was rushed to Puri Headquarters Hospital but he could not be saved,” Puri SP Kanwar Vishal Singh said.
Barik was apprehended by police at the scene. Initial questioning revealed that Patra and Barik had a certain enmity and that the deceased had previously attempted to kill the accused. The two also disagreed that Patra was in a relationship with Barik’s sister.
Loknath temple is one of the most important Shaiva shrines in Odisha. Although it is not that important from an architectural point of view, it holds a special place in the cultural history of Odisha. Lord Loknath is considered the guardian deity of the Ratnabhandara (treasury house) of Jagannath temple.
Tuesday’s murder has brought attention back to the infamous association of Puri temple priests with the underworld of crime.
On March 16, Krushna Pratihari, a servant of the Jagannath temple was shot dead at the temple of Lord Nrusinghanath, a temple of Lord Vishnu just 200 meters from the 12th century shrine. Pratihari, secretary of the Suara Mahasuara Nijog, a powerful committee of servants in the 12th century Jagannath temple, was killed for his acquittal by a magistrate’s court in January this year in a case of murdering another servant there in 10 years. Although he was the main defendant in the 2012 murder case of Taluchha Bhagaban Mohapatra, a powerful servant, Pratihari was acquitted due to a clerical error by the police during the investigation. In the Pratihari murder case, 10 people including Mohapatra’s older brother and nephew were arrested.
In August 2007, Jagannath Temple servant Ajaya Kumar Sarangi alias Hati was returning home with his brother when assailants shot and killed him over a property dispute. Seven people, including Madhab Khuntia, another powerful retainer with dozens of cases against him, were arrested for the murder. In August 1996, servant Damodar Mahasuara was nearly killed when he was attacked by a group of servants including Taluchha Mohapatra in the city of Puri while on his way to the temple.