Rath Yatra begins today after Supreme Court nod: Curfew, no devotees this year

Updated on Jun 23, 2020 07:31 AM IST

Rath Yatra, or the chariot journey, celebrates the annual visit of Lord Jagannath and his two siblings —Balabhadra and Subhadra from the 12th-century Jagannath Temple to their aunt’s place in Gundicha temple, 2.5km away.

Workers preparing to pull the three chariots of Lord Jagannath and his two siblings —Balabhadra and Subhadra(PTI)
Workers preparing to pull the three chariots of Lord Jagannath and his two siblings —Balabhadra and Subhadra(PTI)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | Byhindustantimes.com | Meenakshi Ray

The Supreme Court on Monday allowed authorities in Odisha to hold the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath and his siblings in Puri as it recalled its June 18 order that prohibited this year’s celebrations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde set several conditions, including the imposition of a curfew in Puri during the nine-day festivities, and asked the Jagannath Temple administration committee and the Odisha government to strictly adhere to them.

“If it is possible to ensure that there is no public attendance, we see no reason why the Rath Yatra cannot be conducted safely along its usual route from temple to temple. Having given serious consideration to the matter and having heard the parties, we are of the view that the Rath Yatra at Puri may be held,” the bench, also comprising Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice AS Bopanna, said.

Rath Yatra, or the chariot journey, celebrates the annual visit of Lord Jagannath and his two siblings —Balabhadra and Subhadra from the 12th-century Jagannath Temple to their aunt’s place in Gundicha temple, 2.5km away.

The three deities are taken in massive wooden chariots weighing 85 tonnes each. They come back to the Jagannath Temple on the 10th day in a return journey after staying in Gundicha temple for nine days.

Here is what the top court said:

The court ordered all entry points to Puri, including railway stations and bus stands, to be closed during the festival.

* The state government shall impose a curfew in the city of Puri on all the days and during all the time when Rath Yatra chariots are taken in procession, the order said.

* During the period of curfew, no one would be allowed to come out of their houses or their places of residence, such as hotels, lodging houses, it said.

* Each Rath or chariot shall be pulled by not more than 500 persons and they must be tested for Covid-19.

* They shall be permitted to pull the chariot only if they have been found negative, the court said.

* The court said that all those pulling the chariots should maintain social distancing before, during and after the Rath Yatra.

* There should be a gap of one hour between two chariots, the court added.

* All of those engaged in pulling the chariot shall maintain social distancing before, during and after the Rath Yatra.

* The committee in-charge of Puri Jagannath Temple Administration will have the primary responsibility for conducting the Rath Yatra in accordance with these conditions.

* The bare minimum number of people shall be allowed by the committee to participate in the rituals and the Rath Yatra.

* The rituals and the Rath Yatra shall be covered by the visual media.

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