To avoid crowds amid Covid, no raths for dieties in yatra this year in Kolkata
For the first time in 50 years, Lord Jagannath, Balram and Goddess Subhadra would be travelling in a convoy of 15 vehicles, comprising trailer-trucks, instead of chariots, coming Monday as a part of the annual rath yatra organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in Kolkata.
The yatra will also be taking an undisclosed route to avoid large public gathering amid the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee would not be attending the ceremony but would be sending bhog and her offerings on Monday.
“This is for the first time that Lord Jagannath, Balram and Goddess Subhadra would be travelling in a convoy. Pilot cars of the city police would move in front. Usually, they travel in three chariots which are pulled by devotees and thousands of citizens. We are not even disclosing the route that the convoy would take to avoid any gatherings of devotees on both sides of the road,” said Radharaman Das, vice president of ISKCON, Kolkata.
While the idols would be travelling in one trailer-truck with a small temple-like structure set up, the other vehicles would be carrying their outfits, puja paraphernalia for nine days, servants and pujaris.
“The last time we held a rath yatra was in 2019. In 2020, we had to cancel it because of Covid-19. The deities were taken from one room to another inside the ISKCON premises in Kolkata as a symbolic rath yatra,” he said.
On Monday, the convoy would start from the ISKCON temple and reach ISKCON house which is the ‘Gundica Mandir’ around three kilometres away.
“On July 20, on the day of ulta rath yatra, the convoy would return to the temple again, guided by the police pilot cars. During their stay at ISKCON house for nine days, only a limited number of devotees will be allowed darshan,” said Das.
ISKCON authorities had planned a mega celebration this year which coincides with the 50th year of the rath yatra in Kolkata, but those had to cancelled because of Covid second wave.
While West Bengal is reporting a little less than 1,000 new cases every day, Kolkata is logging 80- 90 new cases daily.
In Odisha, the state government had announced that the annual rath yatra in Puri would begin on July 12 and will take place without devotees. The Supreme Court this week refused to allow rath yatras in cities other than Puri.