By, Dikhyaa Mohanty
The Rath Yatra(Is Rath Yatra feasible in the midst of national lockdown?) which is set to begin on June 23, where every year lakhs of Jagannath devotees visit Puri to catch the glimpses of all three deities, is shrouded in uncertainty.
This year due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide lockdown the biggest question lies whether this festival(Is Rath Yatra feasible in the midst of national lockdown?) should be conducted or not during this pandemic.
Although the Orissa High Court has already directed the state government to consider extending heavy-duty machines and elephants to pull the chariots as to prevent the massive gatherings, it begs the question if this is against the spirit of the revered ritual.
But the point still endures that organizing such a festival(Is Rath Yatra feasible in the midst of national lockdown?) which attracts an estimated 10 lakh people from across the state and the country can be the peril in spreading of COVID-19.
Holding Rath Yatra in this situation will be a dicey situation to infect lakhs of devotees given the escalating number of COVID-19 patients in India including Odisha.
Recently The Odisha Vikas Parishad has approached the Supreme Court seeking to delay the Rath Yatra(Is Rath Yatra feasible in the midst of national lockdown?) due to the alarming pandemic situation.
Even conducting this festival will also be violating the guidelines issued by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs where any kind of Social/Sports/gathering/political/cultural/ religious functions has been prohibited.
Even a PIL has been submitted in the Supreme Court by Bhubaneswar based NGO ‘Odisha Vikas Parishad’ stating that organizing a festival like ‘Rath Yatra’ could lead to “Catastrophic” spread of COVID-19.
Rath Yatra is not just a festival(Is Rath Yatra feasible in the midst of national lockdown?) but a sentimental connection among lakhs of people across the nation. So, cancelling or postponing this annual event can hurt the religious emotions of all the devotees.
The religious heads find it perverse to postpone the yatra as the date for the event is set as per the lunar calendar in accord with a distinct celestial phenomenon. But with the alarming situation, especially in Odisha, there can be a lurking risk in spreading coronavirus.
At this point in time, Puri district is at peak of coronavirus cases and the government had already declared the district as a ‘High-risk zone’.
Recently with the ‘Tablighi Jamaat’ incident where the virus spread like a wildfire, the plea states that religious congregations can cause an outbreak in COVID-19 cases.
Thus, to avoid any similar instances of an outbreak of COVID-19 cases, a religious gathering like the Rath Yatra festival ought to be avoided.