Puri: Hundreds of devotees from across the globe usually visit Srimandir to pay obeisance to Lord Jagannath. But, the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) used to make special arrangements for a few eminent dignitaries like the Prime Minister and President of India when they visit the 12th century shrine.
SJTA sources said several Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Prime Ministers of India, including Gyani Zail Singh, R. Venkatraman, Pranab Mukherjee, Shankar Dayal Sharma, Krishan Kant, PV Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee had visited Srimandir.
Similarly, a few heads of state of countries like Nepal and Mauritius have also visited the shrine in the last 32 years.
It is learnt that as many as four Presidents of India, two Vice Presidents and three Prime Ministers had made pilgrimage to Srimandir while in office.
Gyani Zail Singh as President of India, had visited Srimandir February 10, 1986. Singh’s successor R. Venkatraman had come twice to the shrine in 1989 (January 3, December 10).
India’s first woman President Pratibha Devisingh Patil had visited Srimandir and offered puja before Lord Jagannath December 9, 2009. She had also come to the temple once again November 15, 2013, a year after completing her tenure as the President, SJTA sources said.
According to temple sources, former President Pranab Mukherjee had paid four visits to the 12th century shrine while in office. Mukherjee as the head of state visited it first on April 25, 2013. His last visit to the shrine while in office was on August 7, 2015. Mukherjee had also visited Srimandir November 21, last year after completing his tenure.
Shankar Dayal Sharma as the Vice President of India had come to the Jagannath temple February 6, 1992. Similarly, former Vice President Krishan Kant had paid a visit to the shrine August 23, 1998, said an official of the temple administration.
Former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao had paid obeisance to the Lord while in office. He had visited Srimandir for the first time November 10, 1991 and once again April 29, 1995. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had made a pilgrimage to Srimandir in 1998.
Nepal king Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, as head of the Himalayan kingdom, had visited Srimandir March 29, 2003. He paid a visit to the shrine and offered special puja February 11. That was the year when the new Nepal Constitution had abolished monarchy. Traditionally, the royals of Nepal have been accorded a special status at the 12th century shrine. Nepal’s elected President Bidhya Devi Bhandari too visited the temple April 21, last year.
Besides, former Mauritius President Rajkeswur Purryag had visited the temple February 7, 2016, a year after completing his tenure, temple sources said.
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