New Delhi: In his last judgment before retiring, Justice Arun Mishra has given directions to “preserve the Shivalingam” in Shri Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain.
The Supreme Court bench, also comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari, passed the directions in a case related to the prevention of erosion of the Shivalingam in the temple.
Among other things, the judgment authored by Justice Mishra said “any devotee should do no rubbing of the Shivalingam”. The top court judge is set to retire Wednesday.
The verdict went on to place the onus on the “Poojaries, Janeupati, Khutpati, Purohits, and their authorized representatives to strictly ensure that no visitor or devotee run the Shivalingam at any cost”.
The court also directed the temple committee to “ensure that the pH value of Bhasma during the Bhasma Aarti is improved and Shivalingam is preserved from further deterioration and to implement the best methodology to prevent further damage to the Lingam”.
“If it is done by any devotee, accompanying Poojari or Purohit shall be responsible for not stopping the rubbing. No rubbing of Shivalingam to be done by anyone except during traditional Puja and Archana performed on behalf of the temple,” it directed.
The court also noted that the “rubbing of curd, ghee, honey” on the Shivalingam by the devotees was also a cause of erosion. It therefore opined that the committee should only allow “pouring of a limited quantity of pure milk”. Further, the committee has been asked to provide “pure milk from its resources to visitor and devotees for offering”.
“The Committee should ensure that no impure or adulterated milk is offered to Shivalingam and concerned Poojari/ Purohit to ensure compliance,” the court ordered.
The entire proceedings of the puja in the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) are to be video recorded 24 hours through the day and the recording is to be preserved for at least six months. If any poojari is found to be violating the norms, the temple committee is expected to take suitable action against them, it said.
Additionally, on the basis of a proposal submitted by the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) on the temple’s structural stability, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assured the court that the central government would bear the expenses of Rs 41.3 lakh to be paid to CBRI.
‘Performance of necessary rituals neglected in temples’
The court further noted that during Covid-19 outbreak, devotees were not being permitted to enter the sanctum sanctorum. It directed that “customary Poojaries and Purohits must perform rituals as they know the rituals and are experts in pooja and archana”.
“Of late, it is seen that unfortunately the performance of necessary rituals is the most neglected aspect in the temples, and new Poojaries do not understand them; the same should not be the state of affairs. There is no scope for commercialization,” it observed.
While the court noted that it cannot direct what kind of rituals should be performed, it added, “but no doubt, they should be done regularly by the experts in the field”.
‘Matter is of grave concern’
In August 2017, the court constituted an expert committee of two officers of the Archaeological Survey of India and two officers of the Geological Survey of India to look into the issue of erosion of the Shivalingam.
Then, in May 2018, the court had clarified that it had not interfered with the rituals being observed at the Ujjain temple, while dealing with the issue of protecting the Jyotirlingam at the ancient temple. This judgment, passed by Justice Mishra and Justice U.U. Lalit, had also directed the expert committee to visit the temple again in January 2019 and submit a report on the state of the lingam and any improvements.
Accordingly, this committee’s report now said there had been “erosion of the Shivalinga after the last inspection”. Last month, the court had also called for an ‘action taken report’ from the temple committee as well.
On the basis of these two reports, the court observed Tuesday, “The matter is of grave concern as due to reckless offerings, the Lingam of Omkareshwar Temple was destroyed.”
Taking note of various factors contributing to this erosion, the court now also directed the expert committee to visit the temple and submit a report by 15 December on the steps taken to prevent deterioration of the Shivlingam.
It also directed the committee to conduct a yearly survey and submit a report to the court.
It directed the case to be listed in the second week of January 2021 for further monitoring and consideration of the compliance report.