Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra mandatory essential practice; safety measures in place, says Puri temple authorities

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Updated: Jun 22, 2020 1:02 PM

According to the Shree Jagannath temple authorities, the Rath Yatra is an essential, mandatory and integral religions practice with scriptural sanction dating back to the Skanda Purana and is protected by the Constitution of India as per Articles 25, 26, 29.

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Lord Jagannath Temple’s Rath Yatra unlikely this year? Lord Jagannath’s Rath Yatra has been a constant traditional practice at Puri and was conducted even during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has raised hurdles, following the ‘stay’ order for the Rath Yatra in Puri. Following this, the chief hereditary servitor of the Lord Shri Jagannath temple, Pattajoshi Mohapatra moved the Supreme Court in a fresh application for recall of its order dated 18.06.2020.

Notably, para 4 of the affidavit filed by Principal Resident Commissioner of the Odisha government states that if the Rath Yatra is confined to Puri alone without public attendance as proposed by Gajapati Maharaj of Puri and the chairman of the Puri Jagannath temple administration, the state government will make all necessary arrangements to conduct the Rath Yatra accordingly.

Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra: What is the fresh application before SC about?

A fresh application on Friday night was moved by The Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee and the servitors of the 12th-century shrine, news agency PTI reported. The application urged the Odisha government to file a fresh application before the apex court and seek a modification of its order which stayed the temple’s much revered annual chariot festival in Puri in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

Shree Jagannath temple Rath Yatra an essential mandatory temple practice?

According to the Shree Jagannath temple authorities, the Rath Yatra is an essential, mandatory and integral religious practice with scriptural sanction dating back to the Skanda Purana and is protected by the Constitution of India as per Articles 25, 26, 29.

So, what does the application before the Supreme Court indicate as its key argument for holding the Rath Yatra?

What makes the Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra different?

Unlike the Rath Yatras of other deities of other temples elsewhere, where only the Utsava Murtis are taken outside the temple, in the case of Shri Jagannath Temple, the main deities being Lord Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra themselves move out of the mandir. This temple practice establishes the very essence of this Rath Yatra and how it is linked to an unbroken temple tradition that is deemed as mandatory, unique and integral as part of the shrine’s essential practice.

Rath Yatra history: Scriptural evidence of Jagannath Rath Yatra being mandatory

The application moved before the Supreme Court also points out that the practice has been recorded in the Skanda Purana and the Niladri Mahodaya. These references indicate the significance of the Rath Yatra and points out that any interruption in its observance affects the temple’s sanctity as well as that of its future rituals, the application states.

What safety measures are being taken by temple authorities?

Further, the application includes a list of additional measures that have been taken for the well being and safety of the public so that all rituals are conducted in complete compliance with the health norms that have been issued by the authorities. For instance, all four sides of the Lord Jagannath shrine are sealed, along with a complete curfew in Puri to ensure that there is no gathering around the Rath Yatra.

In addition,all hotels, guest houses and Mutts and any boarding places that offer lodging to pilgrims in and around Puri will be instructed not to accept any bookings and not to host any pilgrims during the entire Rath Yatra period. All inward and outward movements can be banned for two days.

For pilgrims and devotees who want to witness the event, a live broadcasting of the Rath Yatra can be arranged.

Gajapati Maharaja of Puri Divyasingha Deb, who heads the temple’s managing committee, expressed optimism about the Rath Yatra this year as he indicated that the Supreme Court had not been apprised that Lord Jagannath’s Snan Purnima had been observed on June 5. The Rath Yatra festival can also be organised in the absence of devotees, he told PTI.

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