COVID-19 outbreak: Uncertainty looms over holding Ratha Jatra in Puri

Puri: While the entire human race is under attack from novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that has claimed over 14,000 lives so far across the world, now the uncertainty is looming over holding Ratha Jatra of Lord Jagannath in pilgrim town Puri this year.

As Odisha government in its directive is focusing on maintaining social distancing till next 180 days to combat the highly infectious disease, the world famous car festival of Lord Jagannath is scheduled during the challenging period.

This year, the nine-day-long festival falls on June 23. A big decision is likely to be taken on celebration of annual Ratha Jatra of Lord Jagannath shortly.

Reliable source said that the decision will be taken in this regard at Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) managing committee and Chhatisa Nijog meeting if the pandemic situation arising out of Coronavirus could not be tackled in next 15 days.

Usually, the processing for Ratha Jatra begins from holy Akshaya Trutiya every year. This year, the occasion is scheduled on April 26. However, in the wake of restrictions imposed on entry of devotees into Srimandir to avoid mass congregation and public gatherings, no celebrations likely to be held at the Jagannath Temple between Akshaya Trutiya and Chandan Purnima.

When asked to Srimandir Administrator (rituals) Jitendra Kumar Sahoo about proposed plans for holding festivals at the shrine, he said that the decision in this regard is yet to be taken.

“Whatever the decision will be taken by the government and managing committee in view of coronavirus, all has to obey it. However, it’s too early to predict such serious situation. Currently, the processing to collect woods to be used for making of chariots is underway. The next two weeks will be very challenging for us. Further decision will be taken keeping the situation in mind,” the official said.

Worth mentioning, entry into the centuries old shrine is completely prohibited since March 20 till March 31 as the district administration has imposed restriction in view of outbreak of COVID-19 in the state.

As per the directive issued by Puri Collector, only the servitors are allowed inside the temple for conducting rituals of deities.

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