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First Time In 400 Years, Men Allowed Inside This Temple in Odisha

The Ma Panchubarahi temple in Odisha's Satabhaya village is run only by Dalit women.

Rakhi Bose |

Updated:April 23, 2018, 1:37 PM IST
First Time In 400 Years, Men Allowed Inside This Temple in Odisha
(Image: Representational / Reuters)
For the first time in four centuries, men were allowed to touch the five idols at the Ma Panchubarahi temple in Odisha, which is exclusively run by married, Dalit women.

This unusual temple, located near the Satabhaya village in Odisha’s Kendrapara region, is run only by Dalit women. According to reports by ANI, five women Dalit priests are in charge of taking care of the temple and only they are allowed to touch the idols of the five deities housed inside the shrine and carry out rituals and ceremonies.

The temple of Ma Panchubarahi, said to protect the locals from calamities, has remained a ‘no-entry’ zone for men for almost 400 years until April 20, when five men were allowed entry for a day into the consecrated space.

The historic decision to allow men entry was taken after heavy flooding of the nearby Satabhaya village, a community of about 1000 people, necessitated relocating the ancient temple to a safer location in order to avoid its inundation.

The five men, who were allowed to enter the inner rooms of the temple in order to help the women priests move the granite idols, each reportedly weighing almost 1.5 tonnes, to the new structure on the rehabilitation location in Bagapatia, about 12 km inland.

he five head priestesses are reported to have performed ‘purification’ ceremonies for the idols once they reached the new spot.
The village of Satabhaya is one of the worst hit in Odisha in terms of water erosion. Over the past few decades, rising water levels have cause large parts of the village, including villagers’ houses and properties, to get submerged.

Sea erosion has shaved off the villages’ area from 350 sq km in 1930 to around 140 sq km today. Rehabilitation of flood-hit villagers started in 1992 with the state government ordering the rehabilitation of 571 Satabhhaya families to Bagapatiya.Each family was also given compensation worth Rs 1.5lakh to rebuild their homes in the new location. However, the rate of rehabilitation has been sluggish.

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