‘Well orchestrated plan to stall Rath Yatra’: Puri Shankaracharya
Puri Rath Yatra has been conducted without any disruption for over the last 280 years.Updated: Jun 21, 2020 19:38 IST
Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati has alleged presence of a “well-orchestrated plan” to stall the world famous Puri Rath Yatra this year using coronavirus pandemic as a ruse, even as attempts to get the Supreme Court to allow the age old ritual to take place on June 23 continues, reported PTI.
BJP leader Sambit Patra is the latest to move the Supreme Court seeking permission to hold the Jagannath Yatra. His petition offers an assurance that congregation of devotees will not be allowed during the procession mitigating the risk of spreading coronavirus.
The Supreme Court had stayed the holding of the yatra for the first time in over two centuries over fears that congregation of lakhs of devotees during on the occasion could prove to be a fertile ground for spreading Covid-19 infection.
However, after the decision led to an outrage in Odisha, several petitions were filed requesting the court to reconsider its decision. On Saturday, Puri king Gajapati Dibyasingh Deb, who heads the management of the 12th century Jagannath temple, had requested Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik to approach the Supreme Court with a request for partial modification of its order and to allow the Rath Yatra only at Puri.
“The cancellation of Rath Yatra is not correct. SC can allow the deities to get on the chariots. However, the congregation of the devotees should be banned and the festival be organised with limited servitors and police. The festival can be telecast live,” Saraswati had said a day after the SC judgement.
A three-judge bench, headed by chief justice SA Bobde, had stayed the Rath Yatra on Thursday, a decision accepted by the state cabinet and rejected by various religious bodies. At least 4 intervention petitions have been filed in the matter. Chhatisa Nijoga, the apex body of priests of the Jagannath temple has filed two intervention petitions seeking recall of the order and allowing Rath Yatra at Puri to be held while adhering to all guidelines of Covid-19.
Among the arguments presented to allow the Rath Yatra, the petitioners allege that it is a unique festival with an unbroken tradition for over 280 years. Another argument cites a 1964 order by the Supreme Court which allegedly termed the Puri Rath Yatra to be a unique event which “requires special treatment” by the state government. Another point seeks to highlight the huge expenses incurred in the preparation for the Yatra including construction of the chariots and Covid-19 testing of hundreds of servitors to seek its restoration.
Petitions also mention an alternative way of holding the yatra sans the crowd of devotees by using the police force to pull the chariots while another suggests using either machinery or elephants for the purpose.
Temple priests and other religious bodies in favour of holding the yatra had accused the Naveen Patnaik government for allegedly not presenting a convincing argument in the Supreme Court for holding the Yatra, with some even alleging that it was a deliberate tactic to stall the Yatra.