In a bid to check menace of unauthorized priests in the Historic Kashi Vishwanath Temple (KVT), the divisional commissioner banned entry of 11 such persons in its premises on Wednesday. Their entry passes were also cancelled and they will not be allowed to enter the temple to undertake any religious ritual for devotees.
KVT enshrines one of the 12 Joyitirlingas of Lord Shiva and attracts Hindu devotees from across the country, but was besieged by unauthorized ‘shastris’ (priests) who exploited religious sentiments of people to extract money for years.
“Taking serious note of this menace, divisional commissioner Nitin Ramesh Gokarn, who is also the chairman of the executive committee of Shri Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Trust, imposed complete ban on 11 unauthorized priests and cancelled their entry passes,” said a district administration official.
The banned priests are Jitendra Kumar Tiwari, Ramthirth Tripathi, Gordhwaj Sharma, Bhavesh Kumar Jha, Bhrigu Prasad Pandey, Santosh Kumar Tiwari, Rakesh Kumar Parashar, Rohit Kumar Pandey, Vijay Narayan Tiwari, Saurabh Sharma and Sunil Kumar Dwivedi.
“These people were not paid priests of the temple. They had been engaged in religious affairs like performing ‘Rudhrabhishek’ and puja for devotees without proper selection or appointment,” KVT chief executive officer (CEO) A K Awasthi told TOI on Thursday. “They had been working here since 2008,” he informed.
There are 22 paid priests in the temple. Besides, 10-11 priests, who are not paid by the temple trust, assisted in religious rituals. Following complaints regarding unauthorised priests fleecing the devotees, the commissioner had nominated chief development officer (CDO) Vishakh G as investigating officer to look into the matter.
In his report the CDO submitted that these 11 priests were illegally indulging in temple affairs as they had no appointment letter and no selection process was adopted in their case. Such acts maligned the image of the temple. Taking action on this report, the commissioner ordered a ban on their entry in the temple, the official added.
According to Awasthi, these 11 priests were given passes by the former CEO. In February too an authorized priest, Subodh Pandey, was banned. To maintain transparency the commissioner also ordered for the counting of money (received as offerings) by counting machines, which will be monitored by CCTV cameras.