Bhubaneswar: An Italy-born Odissi dancer who has made Odisha her home since 1979 was beaten up by a priest Sunday in the temple town of Puri after she refused to pay a fee of Rs.1,000, an official said.
The incident occurred when 55-year-old Ileana Citaristi climbed atop a chariot to pay obeisance to Lord Jagannath. A priest allegedly beat her when she refused to cough up the amount he demanded.
Two priests also abused her and forced her off the chariot.
"I was beaten on my head. I was shocked," Citaristi told reporters. In her complaint, Citaristi also said the priests shouted at her, saying she was a foreigner (non-Hindu) and so she could not climb the chariot.
Ileana Citaristi was conferred the Padma Shri in 2006 for her contribution to Odissi dance.
"I personally talked to her and expressed my regret over the incident. We have forwarded her complaint to the local police station for further action," Arabinda Kumar Padhee, chief administrator of the Shri Jagannath Temple at Puri, told IANS.
The chariots have been parked in front of the 12th century Jagannath temple after the Bahuda Yatra or home-coming festival that was held July 18.
A glimpse of the deities on the chariots is considered to be very auspicious. The Jagannath temple is part of the Char Dham pilgrimages that a Hindu is expected to make in a lifetime.