Like every year, ardent devotees are waiting from the spectacular Puri Rath Yatra to take place later this month. However, the oldest festival of it’s kind to occur in the world might be struck by an irregular announcement this time- devotees will not be allowed to pull the chariot.
Despite the circumstances, construction of the three chariots has begun, Time of India reports. However, given the momentum of the spread of the virus, and the Odisha Rath Yatra being a massive public event, for the first time in history, the Jagannath Temple administrators might bar every devotee from being a part of the ancient event that has mentions in the Purans.
Thousands of people gather in the Orissa town of Puri to take part in the annual event that ferries deity Jagannath and Balabhadra and Subhadra on wooden chariot built newly every year.
The temple administration fears that this year a huge gathering could lead to spiking cases of COVID-19. The most important part of the whole ritual is the chariot pulling, where devotees try to at least touch the thick rope that draws the deity’s carriages. At least 600 people are needed to pull the three giant carriages. But this, in turn, puts social distancing at bay.
If social media is to be believed, the temple administration has even decided to dose the temple survitors with a certain kind of homeopathic medecine that will boost their immunity.
“We may ban access of devotees to Rath Yatra festival. (…)Allowing congregation of huge numbers of cops, government officers, and servitors to pull the chariots may be risky amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” a senior government official told TOI in anonymity.
The government has allowed building the chariot, however. At least 80 carpenters, all of whom have already undergone COVID-19, are engaged in then work. The temple official told if the congregation is lifted this year, the wood used in the chariot will be used in a kitchen fire.
Orissa has recorded nearly 3k COVID-19 cases with 8 mortality.
(Cover image courtesy of Subhodip via Twitter)