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Incident at Lingaraja Temple-- Can’t understand why I was refused entry: Minister

Minister of Buddha Sasana Gamini Jayawickrama Perera referring to the incident where he was not allowed to enter the Lingaraja Temple in Odisha, said yesterday that he does not understand why this happened to him.

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, the minister said he was forced to face this embarrassment during a tour organised by the Kalinga
International Foundation at Bhubaneswar on March 16.

Minister Perera explained that the temple authorities had not allowed him to enter the temple stating that he was not a Hindu.

“Lingaraja is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva and is one of the oldest temples in Bhubaneswar, the capital of the East Indian state of Odisha. I wanted to visit the place as a devout Buddhist as the place is also historically important to Buddhists.

“The temple is linked to the time of King Ashoka, the great Indian emperor who spread the Dhamma around the world. Arahath Mahinda, who is depicted in Buddhist sources as being responsible for bringing Buddhism to Sri Lanka was also from Odisha. Therefore, the temple is historically important to Buddhists,” he said.

Minister Perera explained that he was surprised by the incident as hundreds of Lankan devotees including Buddhists visit Hindu temples in Tirupati and Kerala.

Minister Perera said that it was an embarrassing situation as the Sri Lanka High Commissioner to India was also among the delegation that visited the temple with him.

The minister said that when he brought up the embarrassment faced by him at the famous temple in the course of the conference in Bhubaneswar former Indian foreign secretary and the Chairman of the Kalinga International Foundation Lalit Mansingh had apologised for what had taken place and assured that incidents such as this would not occur again.

The Lingaraja temple is maintained by the Temple Trust Board and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and while the temple compound is not open to non-Hindus there is a viewing platform beside the wall offering a good view of the main exteriors. (Thilanka Kanakarathna)