Rath Yatra: Chariot Construction Unlikely To Start From Akshaya Tritiya, Says Puri Gajapati

Puri: Gajapati Maharaj Dibyasingha Deb on Friday said that the final decision on Rath Yatra in Puri will be taken after May 3 when the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted.

According to the Government of India’s order, all places of worship will remain closed for public till May 3. The order also prohibits religious congregations, without any exception.

The Gajapati said that Jagannath Temple Management Committee has to abide by it. “Therefore, construction of chariots is also unlikely to start from Akshaya Tritiya, which falls on April 26, outside the temple premises,” he said.

All religious decisions in this regard can only be taken by Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, he said.

“We will meet the Shankaracharya this evening and look for alternatives on how to conduct the other rituals during the lockdown period. He will guide us on observing the Akshaya Tritiya Niti,” he added.

The committee will again meet after the Centre issues fresh guidelines after the lockdown period ends, the Gajapati said.

“We will request the governments at the Centre and the state to ensure that there is no obstruction in the rituals of the Lords,” he said.

He further said that the decision on how to organise the Rath Yatra, with or without congregation of devotees, will depend entirely on the government.

The decision will be taken keeping in mind the risk involved amid COVID-19 outbreak, he added.

After the committee meeting earlier in the day, Ramchandra Das Mohapatra, a member, had said that the Gajapati along with chief administrator of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) Krishan Kumar will meet the Shankaracharya at 7 pm on Friday to discuss the issue.

Some members suggested that since there is no positive case in Puri district, the entire area can be sealed and the festival held as usual, sources said.

With strict directive to adhere to social distancing norms, holding the chariot festival can be a challenge for the Odisha government and the district administration.


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