Earlier there were reports that Puri’s annual Jagannath Rath Yatra 2020 celebrations may be cancelled for the first time in 284 years, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic. But the Supreme Court has stated that the annual festivities can begin from today, with necessary precautions in place. By Amitha Ameen

 

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The Festival of Chariots of Lord Jagannath, a.k.a Jagannath Rath Yatra is celebrated annually in the temple town of Puri in Odisha. The festival celebrates and follows the arrival of Lord Jagannath and his two siblings – Balabhadra and Subhadra from the famous Jagannath temple to Gundicha Temple.

The Supreme Court in its order stated that it will not be able to ‘micromanage’ the proceedings of the yatra and hence the responsibility will lie solely on the centre, state, and temple management to make sure that the proceedings run smoothly, keeping in mind the COVID-19 situation.

 

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“If it is possible to ensure that there is no public attendance, we see no reason why the Rath Yatra cannot be conducted safely along its usual route from temple to temple. Having given serious consideration to the matter and having heard the parties, we are of the view that the Rath Yatra at Puri may be held,” said the three-judge bench.

The court said that the state government will impose a curfew that will have to be strictly upheld by the citizens in Puri. Along with the curfew, the court also said that public transport like railway stations and bus stands will remain closed and that all entry points to Puri will be sealed.

 

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The three wooden chariots, weighing 85 tonnes, which is usually pulled by devotees, this time around will be capped at 500, all of whom will be COVID-19 tested. The court also stated that those pulling the chariot will need to maintain social distancing and that a gap of two hours will need to be maintained between two chariots.

Eager devotees and pilgrims can catch all the proceedings through online media where the event will be streamed.

Related: All You Need To Know About The Rath Yatra Festival In Puri, Odisha