Bhubaneswar | Jagran News Desk: The Odisha government on Thursday announced that the Puri Rath Yatra will be held this year despite fears over the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it said that the Rath Yatra will be organised as per the COVID-19-induced guidelines issued by the Supreme Court last year.

"Puri Rath Yatra will be held this year following COVID restrictions, without the participation of devotees, only with servitors," said Odisha Special Relief Commissioner Pradeep K Jena, adding that only COVID-19 negative and fully vaccinated servitors will be allowed to take part in the rituals.

The Supreme Court had allowed the conduct of Rath Yatra in Odisha after assurance from the state government. However, the court said that the yatra would only be conducted in Puri, adding that only 500 people would be allowed to pull the chariots. It further directed the Centre and state governments to "work in tandem" to check the spread of the deadly COVID-19.

The Puri Rath Yatra is a seven-day festival that is scheduled to begin on July 12. During these seven days, heavily-built wooden chariots of three deities -- Lord Nandighosa (for Jagannath), Lord Taladhwaja (for Balabhadra) and Devi Devadalana (for Subhadra). The wooden chariots are pulled by thousands of devotees over a distance of three kilometres twice during the festival.

Odisha reports 6,097 new COVID-19 cases, 44 deaths

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 situation has stabilised, thanks to the lockdown imposed by the state government. On Thursday, the state reported 6,097 new COVID-19 cases and 44 deaths that pushed its caseload and toll to 8.37 lakh and 3,167 respectively.

As per the state health department, Odisha currently has 69,333 active cases while 7.64 lakh COVID-19 patients have recovered from the infection. The state health department further said that out of the total reported cases, the Cuttack district accounted for the most number of cases with 647 cases, among other districts of Odisha.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma