By Dibyajit Sahu
It was a tumultuous run-up to the staging of the Rath Yatra 2020. It was an unusual fest this year, organising it amid the shadow of the pandemic. The Rath Yatra itself was sunk in uncertainty.
When the Centre or the Odisha government preferred to pass the buck, the ball was left in the Supreme Court. At the highest judiciary too, the process wasn’t free from hassles.
The apex court first ruled out the car festival, dashing the hopes of countless servitors and devotees. When the court order sparked immense public outrage, petitions were filed again in the Supreme Court, forcing it to retract its previous judgement.
Once the apex court green flagged the Rath Yatra, the state machinery barely had time to get its act together. But thanks to the untiring efforts and vision of the administrative triumvirate– Director General of Police (DGP) Abhay, Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) Krishan Kumar and Puri Collector Balwant Singh, the divine spectacle was a stunning success.
Kumar led the preparations from the front. He has ordered 5000 face masks for all servitor families. Rigorous health checkups of the servitors to participate in the Rath Yatra were done and adequate arrangements were made for sanitising.
The Puri administration pulled all stops to organise the Rath Yatra successfully, in line with the Supreme Court verdict and conforming to the state norms on social distancing. A curfew was clamped in Puri town and all wayside vendors were asked to quit Grand Road.
DGP Abhaya accompanied the state Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy to Puri to take stock of the situation on eve of Rath Yatra. Law Minister Pratap Jena camped in Puri ahead of the grand spectacle.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik held a remote video conference with top officials and concerned ministers to ensure the stupendous success of the Rath Yatra, keeping to the pious sentiments of the people.
Kumar made it abundantly clear that only 10 servitors would be allowed atop each chariot during the festival proceedings. No more than 500 servitors were allowed to pull the chariots of the sibling deities as per the Supreme Court order. Covid testing of all of them was made mandatory.
The temple administration announced ‘Palia Puraskar’ for pulling chariots of the ‘Holy Trinity’ and ensuring completion of the Rath Yatra on time. The servitors were also assured of the release of the third tranche of Rs 5000 in cash in view of the Covid induced lockdown.