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A Courier Service Of Orissa That Runs On Faith
By: RSS/News FeedsHungZai Team

Holding a coconut wrapped in a piece of red cloth, a man shows it to a fast running passenger bus on the outskirts of the city. The vehicle stops at a distance and its helper comes near the man in a hurry to collect the fruit. It is carrying coconut to Ghatagaon Tarini, a free courier service which runs on faith.

Thousands of Hindus involve themselves in a network that collects coconuts from devotees from the devotees from almost all parts

of the country and deliver them to a temple situated in a mineral hinterland of interior Orissa, about 200 km from the state capital.

The network is spread almost all over the country. Make-shift collection boxes and at a few places small temples have been set up to collect the coconuts. Passenger buses and other vehicles plying on the route to Ghatagaon in Orissa’s Keonjhar district carry the fruits and hand it over there.

On an average, over 20,000 coconuts reach the temple for offering before the presiding deity Maa Tarini Thakurani every day through this amazing network.

“If anyone waves a coconut wrapped in a piece of red cloth anywhere in the state to any vehicle, it’s certain that the vehicle stops to pick it up to take to the Tarini temple.

If the bus is heading for Keonjhar, it is well and good. And if not, the driver hands over the coconuts to buses driving towards Ghatagaon,” Niranjan Swain, a devotee says.

Terming it as a unique courier service, Swain says the coconuts change hands like batons in relay race before reaching the temple.

The deity’s fame has spread far and wide in the past few years drawing devotees in large number to the temple. Those who cannot come themselves depend on this network to send the hairy fruits to the temple. They are certain that their offerings will reach the Goddess.

It is usually seen in passenger buses plying in different routes, particularly in Orissa, that the cabin behind driver’s seat is stacked with coconuts collected from the way. Drivers have tremendous faith in the Goddess and they believe that ferrying coconuts to the deity will ensure a safe journey.

“It’s a service for the Goddess. We feel proud for being part of the network,” Arjun Mahakud, a bus driver says.

Claiming that whoever says no to carry a coconut, bound to face the wrath of Ma Tarini, the driver says not only the Hindus but drivers belonging to other religions also carry coconuts with all sincerity.

Stating that the deity rules the highway, Bidyadhar Mohanty, an old timer at Anandpur claims that a driver met with brake failure after he refused to carry coconuts a few years ago while in another case a truck driver was electrocuted for doing so.

It is a religious courier service without any parallel in India . It is pure faith that drives the service,” says Guru Charan Singh, secretary of the temple trust.

The buses usually dump the coconut in collection boxes across the state, from where the other buses or devotees headed to Ghatagaon pick them up on their final journey.

Devotees in neighboring state Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and far off places in Maharashtra , Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan also send their offerings through this network.

But all the coconuts that reach the temple are not offered to the deity. “It is humanely not possible to crack such huge stock of coconuts near the deity everyday. Hence a few hundreds are offered to the Goddess daily and the rest are treated as offered,” a priest of the temple says. Later, they are sold in the market.

While some people buy these fruits to make sweets and extract oil, the biscuit firms in the neighboring states get them as their raw material. “The temple earns around Rs 30 lakh annually by selling the coconuts,” Ajay Kumar Bej, secretary of the temple managing committee says.

The deity has become so popular that around 100 Tarini temples have come up in the state. All these temples serve as collection points for the coconuts headed for the main shrine.

The temple management committee has built a VIP guest house and a rest room for the visitors. A market complex has also come up near the temple, while a Kalyan Mandap was constructed near the temple.

Out of the total funds, Rs five crore has been deposited in different banks including State Bank of India, Bank of India and Keonjhar Central Co-Operative bank.

Asked about the priorities of the temple authorities, Bej says the main thrust is to strictly adhere to the rituals in the shrine and then comes the amenities for the visitors, infrastructure development and charity.

There is a proposal to set up an Ayurvedic Medical College and efforts are on to locate a site nearby. A resolution has been passed in this connection in the just concluded temple managing committee. “It is in the very initial stage,” Arun Kumar Panda, managing committee member says.

The coconut courier service has become a subject of discussion for the students of a local management college.

“It is really amazing to see how the system runs effectively without disruption. What makes it unique is that no commercial interest is involved in the network,” says Gopal Nayak, Professor in the Xavier Institute of Management, Bhubaneswar.

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