First in History, Ratha Yatra in Puri Begins without Devotees amid pandemic - TNBCLive

This year’s Rath Yatra of Puri will be held at the Jagannath Temple without devotees for the first time in history.  Lakhs of people from across the world attend the Rath Yatra every year. This morning a large number of priests and temple attendants gathered at the temple but no devotees could come due the social distancing norms imposed in the country amid the outbreak of the coronavirus. Yesterday, the Supreme Court allowed Odisha to hold the seven-day chariot festival in a restricted  fashion amid India’s fight against coronavirus.

Every year a  huge crowd could be seen outside the iconic temple decorated with flowers and a  huge colorful procession takes place where the priests took the idol of Lord Balabhadra to a chariot. Before the procession begins, the temple complex is sanitised.

This morning, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik tweeted: “Heartiest greetings and congratulations on the occasion of the Holy Rath Yatra. On this occasion, I pray to the Lord for the happiness, prosperity and well-being of the people of the state.”

A video was  tweeted showing some sevayats playing traditional musical instruments and dancing to the  beats as others carried the idol to the chariot. This morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the devotees best wishes saying, “My heartiest greetings to all of you on the auspicious occasion of Lord Jagannath’s Rath Yatra. I wish that this journey filled with devotion brings happiness, prosperity, good luck and health to the lives of the countrymen. Jai Jagannath!”

The top court, on Monday, recalled its earlier order banning the hugely popular festival.  The state government was directed not to allow more than 500 people to pull the chariots. 

 “As per the top court’s order, coronavirus test was conducted for all ‘sevayats’ (priests) at Puri’s Jagannath Temple. One sevayat has tested positive, he is not allowed to participate in the Rath Yatra,” Odisha Law Minister Pratap Jena was quoted as saying.

“There shall be an interval of one hour between two chariots. Each of those engaged in pulling the chariot shall maintain social distancing before, during and after the Rath Yatra,” the court said as part of the detailed guidelines.

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