The dawn to dusk strike call by the Puri District Bar Association to protest against the mismanagement of rituals associated with the Nabakalebara of Lord Jagannath evoked a near spontaneous response in the holy town as well as courts across the state.

While business establishments, eateries (even betel shops), educational institutions and offices in Puri, were shut, courts across the state were also affected as lawyers ceased work in support of the Puri Bar Association&’s call.

The complete chaos,total disregard for age-old tradition in conduct of rituals associated with Nabakalebara festival have hurt the sentiments of people across the state. The anguish expressed by Puri Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasing Deo as well as Puri Sankaracharya Nischilananda Saraswati had convinced people that the government and the temple administration had failed to ensure smooth conduct of the rituals.

The wide television coverage of rituals, denting to a certain extent the sanctity of the event, photographs of BJD leaders including Ministers given VVIP treatment for dharshan of the holy tree (identified to make the new idols of the deities), some Ministers even climbing on to the cart carrying the logs, others resting with the servitors when the traditional belief is that nobody should touch the servitors during such rituals, all this enraged people.

Reports that a few servitors had entered the temple without authorisation during the ‘secret’ brahma parivartan ritual and a couple had even carried mobile phones had evoked widespread criticism of the temple administration headed by IAS officer Suresh Mohapatra and the government.

In 1960, the government had taken charge of administration of the Jagannath temple, but till date it has not given priority to streamlining the affairs of the temple as has been done in other temples across the country, observed Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasing Deo on Wednesday. He said it was a crime to carry mobile phones inside the temple and that too when a ‘secret ritual like the brahma parivartan is conducted’.

It is against this backdrop that the lawyers’ call for a stir evoked the kind of success that it did at Puri on Wednesday. Lawyers who were supported by various organizations including the BJP staged road blocks at the entry point to the town.

Tourists as well as devotees who are the floating population of the town had a tough time. Many said they could not get anything to eat during the daytime.

The agitating lawyers went to the railway station in the morning and picketed on the rail tracks for a while, halting movement of trains. Vehicular traffic came to a grinding halt as the lawyers staged road blockade at Atharanala Chhak.

Lawyers of the Orissa High Court Bar Association boycotted work on Wenesday as did advocates at Bhubaneswar and other parts of the state.