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Sunday, April 11, 2021

First time in 284 years! No Rath Yatra, courtesy corona

This will happen for the first time in 284 years! The famous chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balaram and Goddess Subhadra will not roll down the lanes of Puri this year.

The Supreme Court of India on Thursday put a stay on the annual Rath Yatra festival, scheduled to begin on June 23, of Odisha in the wake of the pandemic outbreak.

Here are top 10 developments on this year’s Rath Yatra cancellation

1. An NGO, Odisha Vikas Parishad, moved the SC, bringing its attention about massive public health risk if the annual chariot festival is allowed amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The NGO informed the apex court about the huge congregation that occurs during the festival.

2. Rath Yatra is the annual festival of pulling the ornate chariots of Lord Jagannath, Balaram and their sister Subhadra. It is the journey of the Gods and Goddess from their home, the Puri temple, to their aunt’s house.

3. Since pulling the chariots is considered holy, lakhs of devotees visit Puri during this time and try to touch the chariot ropes. This creates huge gatherings of large crowds across the congested area of Puri temple. The festival continues for 10-12 days across Odisha.

Many of us have seen those Doordarshan live telecast of the Rath Yatra festival or have attended the fest in person. We know for sure that no social distancing rules can be followed during this festival. A country with almost 4 lakh Covid-19 cases like India, we certainly cannot afford to take the risk of holding the festival just like previous years.

4. “In the interest of public health and safety of citizens, we restrain the state from holding the Rath Yatra and associated activities. We direct that there shall be no Rath Yatra and associated activities this year,” the SC bench, headed by S.A. Bobde, said, reported HT.

5. Though there was a plea by a solicitor general for rituals to be allowed without public gathering, the SC rejected it.

“We have enough experience to know that if we allow any religious activity then there will be a gathering…Lord Jagannath will forgive us (for cancelling #RathYatra2020),” the SC bench added.

The Supreme Court of India. Photo: Shutterstock

6. Along with Puri, the SC put a stay on the festival in several other districts of Odisha such as Balasore, Mayurbhanj, Bolangir, Kandhamal, Gajapati and Sambalpur.

7. The Puri temple authorities welcomed the SC’s order. They lauded the apex court’s step considering the pandemic’s outbreak and public health.

8. Soon after the SC’s order on Thursday, the Odisha cabinet passed a resolution. The cabinet asked the Puri temple authorities to carry out the rituals on the 12th century temple premises.

9. The temple committee will hold a crucial meeting on Friday on whether it is feasible to carry out the rituals on the temple promenade. As per a report by News18, the meeting will also decide what to do with this year’s chariots as they have been already made.

10. However, not everyone in Odisha is happy with the apex court’s order. Two organisations have already staged protests against the SC’s order. They blamed the Odisha government for “not doing enough” to facilitate the festival’s continuation.

India certainly cannot take such a huge risk of holding the Rath Yatra at this point. But as the famous saying goes, “Religion is the opium of people”…And in India, religion is like opium. We hope scientific sense prevails and we raise up from the slumber. Jai Hind.


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