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Sevaites, pujaris struggle for survival - at ancient temples

nabadip - Wed, 27 Jul 2005 14:02:07 +0530
Priest seeks help for daughter's marriage

Paresh Rath / Koraput , The Pioneer

He may be a servant of God at Raghunath Temple in Jeypore, but Gopinath Patra continues to be in penury and is in need of assistance, so that he can get his daughter married.

Neelakantha Rath, the senior most priest at the ancient Kalika Temple, also at Jeypore, laments over his inability to provide proper education to his children.

Gopinath and Neelakantha are only two among the hundreds who work
under different designations at the various temples under the Jeypore Debottar (Endowment) in Koraput district.

There are 33 different ancient temples in and around Jeypore which were established by the Jeypore kings. After the abolition of estates, these shrines were handed over by the State Government to the Endowment authority managed by the Jeypore Debottar.

The endowment department witnessed a severe financial crunch during the year 1981-82 and the sevayats working under this department had to struggle for survival.

In 1990-91, a paltry salary of Rs 30 per month was fixed for them, which was subsequently raised to Rs 50 and Rs 75.

Now, even after more than a decade, the authorities have not considered it proper to increase the sevayats' remunerations, the highest amount paid to them continues to be Rs 75.

The lowest-paid non-sevayat employee in a temple, gets Rs 27 per month, which is less than a rupee a day. A chauka, is responsible for cleaning utensils of the temple that are used to prepare the prasad. This is not an easy job as he has to follow specific restrictions while performing his duty.

It is usually the priest who performs all the rituals that are followed in a temple, while the suar prepares the offerings. The latter's monthly remuneration is Rs 68. The gouda supplies water to the temple and gets Rs 45. The dana, who supplies plates and cups, gets Rs 27. The remuneration of the paika, whose job it is to cleanse the place around the deities, is Rs 38.

The shrines in and around Jeypore include the Gupteswar Cave Temple, Kalika, Bhagabati, Neelakantheswar, Chaitanya, Panchanana, Balaji, Dongar Dei, Kapileswar, Gangadevi and Jamunda Bhairavi.

The temple staff was reportedly well-off during the zamindari days as
the estate took care of their families.