When the Mausima temple in Puri, which is integrally linked to the more famous temple of Lord Jagannath, witnessed a burglary, the temple priests were shocked as this was the first such incident at this ancient temple. With the priests and the police clueless about how burglars entered this 14th-century temple located on the main street (Bada Danda), the incident has sparked outrage in Odisha. It has prompted Puri’s titular king Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb to urge the state government to provide more security at the shrines in the preeminent seaside pilgrim town.
Miscreants broke the locks of the temple and looted cash from the donation boxes and valuables from the cupboards inside the temple on Wednesday night. Although police have launched an investigation, there is little progress as the CCTV footage of the temple that night contains no visuals of the burglary bid.
“When I went to Mausima temple on Thursday morning, I saw the locks on the main door and those on the donation boxes (hundi) were all cut. All currency notes were gone; only small change lay in them. Those boxes had a year’s worth of donations. The cupboard, which contained jewellery and worship items, seems to have been opened by use of a shovel. Multiple people seem to have done this together,” said Bishwanath Mishra, a priest at the Mausima temple.
This was the second burglary at a temple in Puri in a span of six days. On March 25 night, cash and valuables were looted from inside the Bankimuhan Ramchandi temple. However, three days later, police managed to trace the robbers and arrested three of them. The cops also recovered the stolen items from the miscreants. But there seems no such luck for Mausima temple so far.
The 12th-century temple of Lord Jagannath, known as Srimandir, and the Mausima’s temple are closely associated through regular rituals. When the three deities return to Srimandir during the Rath Yatra (car festival), they are offered poda pitha (fried puddings) on the chariots at the Mausima temple.
“These two temple burglaries have sparked resentment among the people. It seems Hindu shrines have become targets for the miscreants. Earlier, in 2016, the Ram temple in the Srimandir complex was looted. Donation boxes of Srimandir have also been looted earlier. People want greater security around the Hindu shrines,” said local RSS functionary Soumendra Dash.
The titular king of Puri, Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb, said he was surprised by the theft from the Mausima temple. “Those who have looted the temple should be arrested immediately and exemplary action must be taken against them. Police and the district administration should take all steps to protect all the temples in Puri,” he said.
“A probe is in progress. Since CCTV footage from the temple is unclear, we are examining other footage and the activities of some suspects. A forensic science team is also at work. The culprits will be caught soon,” said Puri SP Kanwar Vishal Singh.
(With inputs from Akshay Mishra)