Jagannath Rath Yatra held in Puri without devotees for second year in a row

Published : July 12, 2021 21:31 IST

On the Grand Road in Puri, priests pulling the chariots of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra during the Rath Yatra festival, on July 12. Photo: PTI

The annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath was held in the coastal Odisha town of Puri on July 12 without the usual congregation of devotees for the second consecutive year in view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Last year the Supreme Court had imposed restrictions on the celebration of the yatra so that the festival does not become a super-spreader event.

The complex set of rituals started in the wee hours. The wooden idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra were taken to their respective chariots from the temple one after the other amid chanting of Hari Bol and rhythmic beating of cymbals and drums in a procession called Pahandi Bije.

The chariots – Nandighosha of Lord Jagannath, Taladhwaja of Lord Balabhadra and Darpadalana of Devi Subhadra – were pulled after Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb, the erstwhile King of Puri, performed the Chhera Pahanra ritual (cleaning of the chariots with a golden broom) as per the tradition. Since people belonging to other religions are not allowed to enter the 12th century shrine, it is said that the deities come out of their abode to give darshan to all on the occasion of the Rath Yatra.

The Sevayats (traditional priests) towed the chariots along the 3-km-long Grand Road connecting the Shri Jagannath temple and the Gundicha temple. Since devotees were not present in large numbers, the rituals associated with the Rath Yatra were conducted well in time. The sibling deities will remain on chariots for the night and will be taken inside the Gundicha temple on July 13. The deities will undertake the return journey, which is called the Bahuda Yatra, on the ninth day of the festival.

All the servitors, administration officials and policemen were either fully vaccinated or had undergone RT-PCR tests prior to the yatra. As many 65 platoons of police personnel were deployed in Puri town to prevent devotees from entering the yatra route.

Three days before the festival, all hotels and guest houses were vacated by the district administration. Even residents of Puri were not allowed to watch the Rath Yatra from their rooftops. However, millions of devotees watched the event live on television channels and social media platforms.

As per the Supreme Court order, the Rath Yatra was allowed only in Puri and in no other place in the State. However, other temples in the State performed the Rath Yatra rituals in their premises.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who did not go to Puri, paid obeisance to the deities while watching live telecast at his residence in Bhubaneswar. On the occasion, Patnaik laid the foundation stone for the Biju Janata Dal’s new building. The party, which has been functioning from a government quarter, was recently allotted government land to build its own office.

The Chief Minister also laid the foundation stone for two state-of-the-art cancer care institutions in Bhubaneswar — the Bagchi-Sri Shankar Cancer Hospital & Research Centre, and the Bagchi-Karunashraya Palliative Care Centre. Odisha skill Development Authority Chairman Subrato Bagchi and his wife Sushmita Bagchi have donated Rs.340 crore for these two global standard cancer-care institutions.

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