Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra will be held this year despite coronavirus, but without the lakhs of devotees

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Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra will be held this year despite coronavirus, but without the lakhs of devotees
File photo of Puri Rath Yatra from 2019IANS
  • The Supreme Court has allowed the Rath Yatra to take place only in Puri and with strict guidelines and the responsibility of the state government.
  • For the first time in 285 years, it was feared that the Rath Yatra would be cancelled.
  • This year’s Rath Yatra (June 23) was put on hold by the Supreme Court due to the rising number of coronavirus cases in Odisha and the country.
Puri Rath Yatra, a 12th century tradition which sees the grand chariots of Lords Balabhadra, Jagannath and Subhadra taken out a procession in the city, will continue this year but with strict guidelines. The top court said that the Puri rath yatra will be held with coordination of temple committee, state and central government without compromising with health issue.

“But we will not do any micro management of Rath Yatra. We will leave it to the best wisdom of the responsible state government. The State Government will act responsibly and contain the spread,” said India’s top court.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared on the Centre’s behalf while senior advocate Harish Salve appeared on behalf of the government of Odisha in the Supreme Court today. “A ritual going on for centuries should not be interfered with,” said Mehta.

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This was the first time in 285 years that it was feared that the Rath Yatra would be cancelled. For the pious event, lakhs of devotees from across the country gather just to catch a glimpse of Lord Jagannath and help pull the chariot.

According to the tradition, if Rath Yatra is not held in a year, it cannot be held for the next 12 years.

This year’s Rath Yatra (June 23) was put on hold by the Supreme Court due to the rising number of coronavirus cases in Odisha and the country. Odisha currently has over 5000 coronavirus cases. Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde had said, “Lord Jagannath won't forgive us if we allow it”.

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Earlier, an organisation based out of Odisha had moved the Supreme Court to put a stay on the Rath Yatra as ‘it could be catastrophic’. In 2019, ten lakh people had taken part in the festival.

However, this was met by dissent from across the country, and soon petitions were filed to let the festival take place.

Janardhan Pattajoshi Mohapatra, the chief servitor of Lord Jagannatha, had requested the Supreme Court to hold the festival without the crowds as it is an ‘unbroken tradition’. “Any interruption in the observance of this mandatory religious practice affects the very sanctity of the temple and all its future rituals as well as the faith of millions of devotees across the world who understand and revere the significance of the Rath Yatra,” the application stated.

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The application had also called for a complete curfew in Puri on June 23 to ensure that crowds don’t gather on the streets and said that if held without the lakhs of devotees, the procession would be completed in less than an hour.

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