New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: The historic Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra started this morning, but without any public attendance for the first time ever as the Supreme Court allowed for holding the festivities in a restricted manner in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visuals tweeted by news agency ANI showed that huge crowd gathered outside the temple. The priests took the idol of Lord Balabhadra to a chariot. The temple complex was sanitised before the procession began.

A video tweeted by ANI showed sevayats (people who perform the rituals) playing traditional music instruments and dancing as others carried the idol to the chariot.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi this morning greeted the devotees, saying: "My heartiest greetings to all of you on the auspicious occasion of Lord Jagannath's Rath Yatra. I wish that this journey filled with devotion brings happiness, prosperity, good luck and health to the lives of the countrymen. Jai Jagannath!"

The Supreme Court on Monday recalled its June 18 order putting on hold the historic Rath Yatra. The top court modified its earlier order after the Odisha government submitted that the festival “can be held in a limited way without public attendance”.

 

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde directed that each of three raths or chariots would to be pulled by no more than 500 people who will be tested for coronavirus.

The apex court also asked the state government to impose curfew in Puri city during the religious event in which lakhs of people from all over the world participate every year.

In its order, the bench, however, sounded a word of caution that it was informed that in the 18th-19th century a yatra of this kind was responsible for the spread of cholera and plague “like wild fire”.

“We say this in order to remind the authorities concerned that the situation can become dangerous if the rules of caution are ignored,” it said.

Three heavily-built wooden chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra are traditionally pulled by thousands of devotees over a distance of three kilometres twice during the nine-day festival of the Trinity at Puri. This year the congregations would have been held on June 23 and July 1.

Posted By: Abhinav Gupta