Hundreds worship Gandhi in Orissa villages on his birth anniversary

October 2nd, 2008 - 6:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Oct 2 (IANS) Hundreds of people from various religions, communities and castes worshipped Mahatma Gandhi Thursday in Orissa.Over 300 people thronged a temple and worshipped Mahatma Gandhi by offering flowers to his idol in Bhatra village located on the outskirts of Sambalpur town, about 300 km from here.

The Gandhi Mandir named after the Father of the Nation was built in 1974 by Dalit leader Abhimanyu Kumar and some local residents. It looks like a Hindu temple and is about 11 metres high. It houses a 1.7 metre high bronze idol of the Mahatma.

The Bhatra village has over 150 Dalit families and they worship the idol twice everyday, the way Hindus worship deities in temples. The temple also has a Dalit priest.

In front of the temple, there is an Ashok `Stambha’ (pillar) and at the entrance there is a statue of Mother India holding the tricolour in her left hand with the map of India in the backdrop.

Part of the state is witnessing communal violence between Hindus and Christians in which over 34 people from both communities were killed. In spite of the tense atmosphere, hundreds of people from different religions visited the temple.

“Today more than 300 people who include Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Dalits visited the temple and offered flowers to Mahatma God,” Kumar told IANS by phone.

All residents of Bargarh district’s Panimora, which is known as the village of freedom fighters, collectively sang “Ram Dhun” and offered prayers to the idol of Mahatma Gandhi installed at the entrance of their village.

The village is located about 400 km from state capital Bhubaneswar. Thirty-two people from the village were jailed during the 1942 ‘Quit India’ movement, of which only four are alive.

The residents of Jaguliapada, a remote village in the coastal district of Kendrapada, some 150 km from here, paid respects to Gandhi as well as his gardener Raghu Nayak who hailed from the village.

Nayak was the gardener at Birla House in New Delhi, where Gandhi lived till his assassination. Nayak was the one who overpowered the fleeing Nathuram Godse, after the latter fatally shot the Mahatma, said an official of Kendrapada district.

Like every year, this year too the villagers organised a prayer meeting, which was attended by over 500 people. Till his death in 1983 in his village, Nayak would personally organise prayer meets every Oct 2 and Jan 30.

After his death, Nayak’s widow Mandodhari and other family members have carried on the tradition.

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