Trouble In Ambaji Temple’s Priestly Ranks; Bhattji Family Infighting Reaches Court

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Trouble In Ambaji Temple’s Priestly Ranks; Bhattji Family Infighting Reaches Court

| Updated: December 24, 2022 09:42

The Ambaji Temple on the border of Gujarat and Rajasthan (in the Danta Taluka of Banaskantha District) is in news over a familial dispute over rights to worship. 

This pilgrimage spot (it is a Shakti Peeth) is highly revered as it is believed that the heart of the Mother Goddess fell here, on the Arasur Hills of the Aravalli Range. Through time and lineages of royal priests, only four Bhattji families were left entitled to conduct the proceedings, or even enter the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. 

However, the High Court now finds itself adjudicating over a family dispute of the priests. The petitioner, Deviprasad Thakkar’s plea seeks the rights to be allowed entry and permission to do Puja in the garbh-griha. His complaint mentions his nephews having ousted him from the family mantle. Hearing the matter, Justice Biren Vaishnav issued notices to the temple administration and sought a response by January 12. The court also called for a stay on Thakkar’s alleged “eviction” from the temple premises. 

The feud requires a clearer understanding of History. Thakkar’s father, Kantilal, was among the five persons appointed by the former royal family of Danta. However, moving on, the state government amended the same and also accepted the hereditary rights of the Bhattji families to conduct worship within the sanctum.  Deviprasad’s father died in 1986. His sons, Mahendrabhai and Deviprasad, were named as his successors in the will. 

By August 2022, the brothers alternately performed puja along with sons of other priests. While the administration added Mahendrabhai’s name to the list of priests, Deviprasad’s name was given a miss for unclear reasons. 

Mahendrabhai passed away in August this year. Thereon, his sons staked a claim to their hereditary rights and challenged Deviprasad’s right entry into the sanctum. The matter made its appearance in High Court in August, where upon despite “oral instructions” till the matter was resolved, Thakkar was denied his rights. His advocate, Siddharth Dave, informed that the administrative department of the temple and the district collector of Banaskantha were also in the know of the matter. 

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