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Puri Rath Yatra Commences, But Was Social Distancing Followed?

Earlier the SC had stayed the Rath Yatra.

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India
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Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Mohd. Ibrahim & Deepthi Ramdas

The grand annual Rath Yatra started in Odisha's temple town of Puri as the holy trinity of Lords Jagannath, Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra began making their way to their individual chariots in a ceremonial procession ritual called the Pahandi.

For the first time in history, though, no devotees were allowed to participate in the festival due to instructions from the Supreme Court to conduct the festival in a restricted manner because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All the rituals for the festival this year will be carried out by the priests and servitors of the temple.

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The temple premises were sanitised before the festival and all the servitors were also tested for COVID-19. One of them was found to be positive and was immediately hospitalised without being allowed to take part in the festivities.

However, while strict social distancing was advised by the court, visuals from the festival tell a different story, though measures for the same seemed to be in place.

Earlier the SC had stayed the Rath Yatra.
Priests and devotees take part in the pahandi rituals of Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra in Puri.
(Photo: PTI)
Earlier the SC had stayed the Rath Yatra.
Devotees maintain social distancing while taking part in Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra at Bada Danda (the Grand Road) in Puri.
(Photo: PTI)

In a video tweeted by news agency ANI, a large crowd could be seen surrounding the chariot after the idol was mounted on it.

In another clip too, where the King of Puri, Gajapati Maharaj Dibyasingha Deb, was seen sweeping the chariot with a special broom, a large crowd could be seen.

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On Monday, 22 June, the Supreme Court, which had earlier ordered for the festival to be cancelled, said that the state can continue with the festival but with strict norms due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Only priests and servitors who had tested negative for COVID-19 would be allowed to participate in the festival, and no more than 500 people would be allowed to pull the chariots, said the court.

More over, it said that social distancing must be maintained at all times and that there must be an interval of an hour between two chariots.

In accordance with the court's order, the Odisha government has also imposed a 41-hour curfew in the temple town of Puri.

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 deities travel back on the chariot, to the Jagannath Temple.

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