Servitor Tests Positive For COVID-19 Hours Before Puri Rath Yatra
The SC, on 22 June, allowed the famous Rath Yatra to continue this year amid heavy restrictions for COVID-19.
Hours before the holy Rath Yatra in Odisha's temple town of Puri commenced, one servitor of the Jagannath Temple has tested positive for COVID-19.
The Puri District Administration tweeted on Tuesday, 23 June, that it had tested 1143 servitors, as per instructions of the Supreme Court, and one of them has been found positive. The servitor has been sent to a COVID hospital and contact tracing is being carried out.
Over a million devotees converge at the temple town of Puri every year to witness the Rath Yatra or the chariot journeys of deities Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra. However, this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court has placed restrictions of Rath Yatra celebrations.
A three-judge bench of the Court, headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, said on Monday, 22 June, that each of the three chariots should not be pulled by more than 500 people and that there must be an interval of an hour between pulling of each chariot.
The Odisha government has also imposed a 41-hour curfew in Puri ahead of the event.
As per Supreme Court’s instructions, the temple priests and servitors who would be pulling the three chariots were tested for COVID-19. It is then that one servitor tested positive.
"One sevayat (servitor) has tested positive, he is not allowed to participate in the Rath Yatra", said Odisha Law Minister, Pratap Jena, to news agency ANI.
Lord Jagannath, Goddess Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra are worshipped in the sanctum of the famous Jagannath Temple in Puri. According to customs the three are brought out of the temple every year on the second day of the third Hindu month of Asadha in three huge chariots that is accompanied by a "Sudarshana Chakra".
The nine-day chariot procession or Rath Yatra celebrates this annual journey of Lord Jagannath and his two siblings, from the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple, about 2-kms away, which is considered to be their aunt's home.
Thousands of devotees gather in Puri every year to pull these chariots as they make their way to the Gundicha temple. Pulling the chariot is believed to be a good omen that brings luck and success.
After spending nine days at the Gundicha Temple, the dieties travel back on the chariot, to the Jagannath Temple.
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