Puri: At least 10 "Sevayats" (priests) and some devotees were injured here on Monday, in alleged cane-charge by police to control the swelling crowd of devotees atop "Nandighosh", the chariot of Lord Jagannath.

"We have shifted the police personnel deployed near the chariot after the incident and discussion with the priests was continuing to sort out the matter," Superintendent of Police, Puri, Amitendra Nath Sinha said.

The incident occurred on Monday during the "Abakash" ritual of Lord Jagannath as a large number of devotees climbed atop "Nandighosh" and jostled for a glimpse of the deity, police sources said.

In a departure from centuries old tradition, the Jagannath temple administration had prepared a ladder made of aluminum to enable the devotees climb up the three majestic chariots and have a glimpse of the deities.

Following the incident, public darshan atop the three chariots came to a standstill and priests stopped the rituals briefly before the "Pahandi" of deities into Gundicha temple.

However, the rituals were resumed after intervention of the district, temple and police administration, while priests demanded stern action against guilty policemen.

District Collector Fakir Mohan Satpathy, Administrator (Niti) of the Jagannath temple Debi Prasad Panda besides the SP were closeted in a meeting with a delegation of the priests for smooth conduct of the almost fortnight long festivities commencing with the Rath Yatra on Sunday.

The injured were being treated at the district headquarters hospital here.
An eyewitness claimed that there was stampede like situation atop the chariot of Lord Jagannath and noticing that the situation was slipping out of control, police personnel deployed around swung into action and resorted to lathicharge.

"Violating the sacred tradition, policemen climbed up the chariot wearing leather shoes and beat us up in which many Daitapatis and Pujapanda sevaks sustained injury", Gopal Krushna Pujapanda Samanta, one of the injured priests alleged.

All the three chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra had reached the Gundicha Temple last evening after being pulled by thousands of devotees from the 12th century shrine.