Rath Yatra’s Fate Hangs On SJTA Meeting Today!

Bhubaneswar: The managing committee of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) is meeting at 4.30 pm on Monday to take a decision on this year’s Rath Yatra in Puri in view of the extension of lockdown till May 17.

According to sources, it will be held via video conferencing and picture on holding of Rath Yatra should be clear by evening.

The Odisha government had earlier announced that a decision in this regard will be taken after the lockdown restrictions end on May 3. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs’ decision to extend it by two more weeks has put a question mark on the fate of the chariot festival this year.

Meanwhile, a delegation of senior Daitapati servitors has requested Puri Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb to convince the state government to give a green signal for the Rath Yatra since Puri  has been categorized as a Green Zone.

While some in the government favour holding of Rath Yatra without public participation but with adequate precautions and social distancing norms, there are others who want it to be cancelled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The former group does not want to disrupt a tradition that has remained unbroken for 284 years as it involves the religious sentiments and faith of crores of people, the sources added.

Mukti Mandap scholars had earlier suggested that Rath Yatra, which is scheduled for June 23, can be conducted with the help of a limited number of servitors and police personnel. To prevent entry of tourists, all the entry points to the Pilgrim Town can be sealed, they added.

According to guidelines of both Union and Odisha governments, “Religious congregations are strictly prohibited irrespective of zones” for two weeks with effect from May 4.

The ongoing lockdown has also hampered preparations for the festival with the Akshaya Tritiya and Chandan Jatra rituals being performed inside the 12th century shrine. The Maharana servitors (carpenters) have already expressed displeasure over the delay in commencement of chariot construction.

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