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Beware of the Pandas in Puri Jagannath temple and Lingaraj temple

Puri and Bhubaneswar lie in the Golden Triangle of Odisha. Many tourists visit these places every year. Moreover, Puri Jagannath temple is one of the famous Char Dhams. Those who visited Jagannath temple and Bhubaneswar Lingaraj temple might be aware of the Pandas in these temples. Beware of these Pandas who are just guides and not authorized priests.

They hang around / spend time in these temples to make few bucks from the pilgrims who come from other regions / states. These people are the so-called priest-cum-guides and they easily make out whether the visitors / pilgrims are locals or non-locals. As soon as they see the non-local pilgrims entering the temple, they approach or literally chase them and speak to them politely saying that they don't demand money but just help / guide you for an easy darshan of the Mahapuru (Mahaprabhu i.e Lord Jagannath / Lingaraj). They keep following / chasing you till you engage one.

If you refuse to engage them, they go away literally cursing you saying that all these pilgrims are very sinful people who visit the temple just to discard their sins here. They feel as if the pilgrims are thrusting their sins upon the Pandas. These Pandas literally follow religious blackmail tactics.

On the other hand, if the non-local pilgrims believe their words and engage a Panda, they make the pilgrims buy a basket of flowers, coconut, bilwa leaves (in Lingaraj temple), bananas and other such pooja materials in one of the shops. Each Panda is attached to one of the shops. So they make the pilgrim purchase pooja materials from a particular shop. When you ask the Panda about his charges, he says that it's your wish and they make you believe that they are not the demanding types.

And then the Panda takes you round the temple explaining about the temple in Hindi spoken in a typical Odiya accent. Depending on the timings of entering inside the sanctum sanctorum, they take the pilgrims inside the 'garbha gruha' in Lingaraj temple. There is no entry inside the 'Garbha Gruha' in Puri Jagannath temple.

Pilgrims get jam packed waiting to enter inside the 'garbha griha' when the security people keep pushing the pilgrims with heavy / thick old log of wood which is kept as a hindrance to enter the sanctum sanctorum.

At the specific time (mostly mornings from 6 to 9 and afternoon 2 to 4) when the log of wood is removed for the entry of pilgrims, they rush inside with forceful pushing and with no proper rule and rhyme. At times pilgrims who get sandwiched may also fall on the slippery floor. Inside the sanctum sanctorum, you cannot concentrate your mind on Lingaraj but your mind will be engaged in safeguarding yourself from the forceful pushes.

Meanwhile the Panda whom you engaged makes you hold the basket of puja materials, quickly chants few mantras. And then they ask you how much amount you are going to donate for feeding the Brahmins in the temple. It could range from two hundred rupees to few thousands. And the poor pilgrims will be in a dilemma. They can neither say YES nor NO. They fear to say NO in front of Lingaraj with the thought that they may be cursed. They don't leave you and don't offer the pooja materials to the Lord till you say some amount. Such is the blackmail tactics of these Pandas inside the temple.

Beware of such Pandas in Puri Jagannath temple and Bhubaneswar Lingaraj temple. God will never curse those who pray Him with sincere devotion. 

On the other hand, if the non-local pilgrims refuse to take help from them, these Pandas shout at the pilgrims and curse them. They keep abusing / cursing and shout at the pilgrims. Puri Jagannath temple is heavily crowded with pilgrims through out the year. There is too much of pushing force inside the temple and it's too difficult to have the darshan of Jagannath.

From decades there is no change in these Pandas. They wear just a dhoti (mostly Khurda dhoti) tied in a typical way up to knees and mostly with a bare chest or with a 'gamcha' (upper wear) on the shoulders. A typical unbearable nausating odor / sweat odor emits from them.

It is better if pilgrims collect all the required information about Lingaraj temple / Jagannath temple before visiting these and try to avoid from becoming victims to these cunning Pandas who literally use blackmail tactics. Try not to become a victim to these Pandas when you visit these temples. They just try make cash from your faith in god.

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