Due to the corona pandemic, for the second consecutive year, the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath and his siblings will be held in Puri next month without any devotees in the presence. Special Relief Commissioner Pradeep Jena said on Thursday that the Rath Yatra will be held on July 11 as per the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court last year. After refusing to allow it, the top court had last year allowed the Rath Yatra on the condition that there would be no public appearances and all entry points in Puri would remain closed.
He also said that each of the 3 chariots will be pulled by not more than 500 persons. It is mandatory for all of them to be corona negative.
Jena said, “The pulling of the chariots is probably done by the sevayats, police personnel and any other officer permitted by the SJTA. Only temple servants who have either been fully vaccinated or whose RT-PCR report of 48 hours ago will be negative will be allowed to perform the Rath Yatra rituals. There shall be sufficient gap between the pulling of two chariots. Each chariot shall be pulled by not more than 500 persons and social distancing shall be maintained by the persons as far as possible.”
Rath Yatra is considered as part of the social, religious and cultural ethos of the people of Odisha. It is one of the main festivals of Odisha that commemorates the annual visit of Lord Jagannath and his siblings from the 12th century Jagannath temple to the Gundicha temple, 2.5 km away in the city of Puri, to their aunt’s residence. During the Rath Yatra, one lakh devotees gather in the city of Puri believing that they will attain salvation by touching the ropes attached to the chariots. After staying for 9 days at the Gundicha temple, the three deities return to the Jagannath temple on the 10th day in a return journey called “Bahuda Yatra”.
Chief Administrator of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration, Dr Krishna Kumar said that from Akshaya Tritiya (May 15) 88 people including 40 carpenters, 31 Bhoi sevaks, 13 blacksmiths and four temple officials are working to make 3 chariots. The laborers engaged in making chariots are doing their work wearing N95 masks and sanitizing their hands before starting work. They have been kept in isolation at Gundicha Bhakta Niwas till the three chariots are ready.
This year Rath Yatra will not be allowed in all other parts of the state including Koraput, Baripada, Kendrapara and Nilgiris in view of the pandemic. Rituals related to Rath Yatra can be performed in the temple premises.
Jena said curfew would be imposed in Puri city by the district administration during the Rath Yatra to restrict the entry of outsiders. However, essential services including ambulances, medical shops and water supply will be allowed. Persons requiring emergency travel to and from Puri will also be permitted by the local administration. Trains, buses and other private vehicles will also not be allowed to enter Puri Town during this period.
He said that the Information and Public Relations Department would make arrangements for live telecast of important programs like Snan Jatra, Gundicha Jatra, Bahuda, Suna Besha and Neeladri BJ and would feed the media.