Odisha asks Centre if chariot making for Puri Ratha Jatra can be allowed

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government sought clarification from the Centre on Wednesday if activities outside the Jagannath temple in Puri could be permitted during coronavirus lockdown, as it is in a fix whether to allow the construction of chariots for the annual Ratha Jatra.

The move comes two days after the Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee (SJTMC) sought its permission to go ahead with the chariot construction outside the temple premises, as uncertainty loomed over holding of the famous festival on June 23.

“We have sought clarification from the Centre on whether to allow chariot construction during the lockdown period,” Law Minister Pratap Jena told PTI.

Jen said the clarification was required as the lockdown had been imposed by the Union Home Ministry till May 17.

Opposition parties, servitors and religious heads criticised the state government for the delay in granting permission for the chariot making.

“There is no need to seek permission from the Centre. The state is capable of allowing the activities in green zone,” BJP leader Bijoy Mohapatra said.

State Congress president Niranjan Patnaik said the BJD government should take a decision without delay. “We will accept whatever decision the state takes keeping in view the public health in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

The temple servitors, however, expressed resentment over the state government”s act of prolonging the process.

“There should be no delay in the Lord’s work. Say yes or no,” said Binayak Dasmohapatra, a senior servitor in Puri temple. “Making delay in taking decision is creating confusion among crores of Hindus.”

The chief carpenter of Lord Jagannath Nandighosh chariot, Bijay Mohapatra, also expressed concern over the delay in beginning of the construction work.

“We have already lost 10 working days. The chariot construction work should have been started from ”Akshaya Tritiya” (April 26),” Mohapatra said. “I can’t see a possibility of conducting Ratha Jatra this time.”

Earlier, the SJTMC, headed by Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb, had appealed to the state government to allow construction of the chariots as the rituals associated with chariot making were performed inside the temple on April 26.

He said construction work might continue in Puri, which is a green zone.

The SJTMC said that social-distancing guidelines would be followed when the carpenters construct the three chariots at Ratha Khala near the temple office.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had last month held discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on uncertainty over organising the Rath Jatra because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier, two prominent servitors’ bodies had appealed to the chief minister not to stop the annual Rath Jatra as it is linked to the emotions of lakhs of devotees across the globe.

They said the festival could be organized on a limited scale with adequate precautionary measures.

Around 10 lakh devotees from across the country and abroad throng the seaside pilgrim town during the Rath Jatra every year.

(PTI)

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