//American fined US$4.70 for entering Hindu shrine barred to non-Hindus

American fined US$4.70 for entering Hindu shrine barred to non-Hindus

The Associated Press,  March 2, 2007

BHUBANESWAR, India: An American tourist has good reason to feel shortchanged after his visit to a Hindu holy site in eastern India on Friday_ not only was he kicked out for being a non-Hindu, he was also fined 209 rupees (US$4.70; euro3.60) by irate temple priests.

The man, identified by officials at the Jagannath Temple in the city of Puri as Paul Roediger, a 59-year-old engineer from New York, was handed over to police along with two Hindu friends who went in with him, said temple spokesman L.D. Pujapanda.

"The men were released later after they said that they were unaware of the temple rules. However, Mr. Paul was fined 209 rupees as per the temple law," Pujapanda said.

Roediger left shortly afterward and could not be found for comment.

The temple, dedicated to Jagannath, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, is particularly popular with Hindus because all casts are allowed in.

That tolerance is not extended to non-Hindus. The temple once famously refused entrance to then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi because she married a non-Hindu, forcing her to view the shrine from across the street.

Puri, once of the four holiest Hindu pilgrim sites, is 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Bhubaneswar, the capital of the eastern state of Orissa.