Doubts Over Puri Rath Yatra, Decision Soon

The Odisha government is yet to decide whether to conduct this year’s Rath Yatra in Puri, which attracts a humungous crowd from all over the world. The doubts loom due to the COVID-19 pandemic and stringent rules about social distancing. Earlier, the state government had cancelled the Rukuna Rath Yatra of Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar, which was scheduled on April 1.

“We have already started discussing the matter with concerned stakeholders, including Puri Shankaracharya, Gajapati Maharaj Dibyasingha Deb, Puri temple administration and servitors. The government will very soon make a decision whether or not to celebrate Rath Yatra,” said state law minister Pratap Jena.

Generally, the preparations for the grandeur fest begin two months in advance. But due to the lockdown, things have been at a standstill. “We will act according to the situation. At present, our priority is to check the possible spread of the deadly virus”, said Balwant Singh, Puri district collector and temple’s deputy chief administrator.

The timber wood which is required for making the chariots has already been delivered by the Forest department. The construction of the chariots was supposed to begin on the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritiya on April 26. However, the temple officials are worried about how the carpenters would maintain social distancing on duty.

“We expect to see the celebration of Chandan Yatra of the temple on April 26 without the participation of devotees. Rath Yatra should not be stopped.If COVID-19 situation does not improve, the government should allow the conduct of Rath Yatra amid strict restrictions”, senior servitor Binayak Dasmohapatra said.

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