With uncertainty looming over Lord Jagannath’s annual Rath Yatra in Puri this year amid the coronavirus threat, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday held a telephonic discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding the Covid-19 situation and about the upcoming Rath Yatra.
Naveen Patnaik later interacted with the members of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA).
The religious event has been held uninterrupted since 1736, according to Bhaskar Mishra, a researcher in Jagannath Culture.
Puri Gajapati Dibyasingh Deb, after chairing Srimandir Managing Committee meeting on Friday via video conference, said, “Since the lockdown restrictions in the battle against Covid-19 are in force till May 3, there can be no public participation in any of rituals conducted outside any temple across the country till that period.”
According to the Government of India’s order, all places of worship will remain closed for public till May 3. The order also prohibits religious congregations, without any exception.
Puri Gajapati Dibyasingh Deb said that the temple management committee has to abide by it.
The rituals of Lord Jagannath performed outside Srimandir during Chandan Jatra cannot be conducted during lockdown.
The processing for Rath Yatra that commences from Akshaya Tritiya as per Jagannath culture every year cannot take place till May 3. As the chariots are made outside the temple premises, it is unlikely to start from Akshaya Tritiya (April 26) as per the tradition, he said.
“Since all the managing committee members do not want to break the century-old tradition, we will seek alternative means from the Shankaracharya on how to conduct rituals outside the temple during the lockdown,” he said.
Dibyasingh Deb, meanwhile, said any decision on the annual festival, scheduled for June 23, will be taken in accordance with the guidelines released after the lockdown is lifted on May 3.
“The committee members unanimously agreed that the 12th-century shrine will abide by the lockdown guidelines implemented both by the central and the state government. Therefore, all activities outside the temple will not be held before May 3,” the Gajapati Maharaj said in a video message.
Lakhs of devotees from various parts of the world throng in Jaganath Dham, Puri to witness the annual sojourn of the Holy Trinity – Lord Balabhadra, Mahaprabhu Jagannath and Devi Subhadra. Since social distancing is not possible with such a huge crowd, there is uncertainty about the Rath Yatra being held this year.