Poverty-stricken tribals offer prayers at Jagannath temple

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Puri, Nov 18 (UNI) The much-cherished desire of poor tribals, belonging to a remote village in Bangiriposi, to have a darshan of Lord Jagannath and offer prayers, was fulfilled today, owing to the efforts of ''Swargdham'', a Cuttack-based NGO.

The NGO conducted a tour to Srikshetra for the poor tribals.

Tears of joy welled up in the eyes of septuagenarian Sita Hembram while narrating her experience to the scribes during participation in a mass ''Samudra Aarti'' in the Mahodadhi tirth (a stretch of Puri sea from Chakratirth to Swargdwar).

Sukanti Naik, who had similar feelings, said many of her villagers died without visiting Srikshetra as they were unable to afford the expenditure for a trip to Puri which was far away from their place.

On the way to Puri, the tribals were taken to the Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar and Sakhigopal temple.

The beach presented a spectacular scene as about 70 devotees, holding lighted diyas in their hands, offered prayers to Lord Varuna, the sea God and Mahalaxmi, the goddess of wealth.

They were taken to ''Swargwar'', the sacred Hindu crematorium, considered as the gateway to heaven.

Later, in the afternoon, they visited the temple and offered prayers to Lord Jagannath in the sanctum sanctorum and were delighted to see their beloved deity in close proximity.

The tribals took Mahaprasad in Anand Bazaar (a place in the temple complex where offerings of the lord, called Mahaprasad, are sold and served) before leaving the holy city in the evening.

Swargdham president Sarat Chandra Sahoo said with an objective of facilitating the poor devotees, living in far-flung tribal areas of the state, to worship Lord Jagannath, they organised trips to Srikshetra.

''We choose the poorest of the poor devotees under the age group of 50 to 70 years from different villages of the tribal districts and bear all expenses incurred for the trip, right from their doorsteps to their return,'' he added.

''In some cases, we even had to provide clothes to them as they lacked proper clothes for the journey due to their extreme poverty.

Every year, Swargadham organises one trip and this is the seventh such trip,'' he said.

Nearly 52 devotes, including 12 old women, began their journey on board a luxury bus from Bangiriposi yesterday morning.

Temple chief administrator S C Mahapatra extended help for their visit to the Jagannath temple.

UNI

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