• Author Name: Gauri S. Nashikkar
  • Details:  Advocate, B.Com, LLB, LLM in Business Law, Lecturer (2+ years experience)



While the Supreme Court had initially put a hold on this year’s Rath Yatra, it revoked its stay order on 22nd June and allowed the Rath Yatra to take place.

 

The Supreme Court on June 18 had passed an order directing that there shall be no Rath Yatra held this year because of Coronavirus pandemic after a petition was filed by an NGO "Odisha Vikas Parishad" for the same.

 

The three-member bench reversed its decision after the Odisha government filed an affidavit stating that it could conduct the Rath Yatra in a "limited way without public attendance".

 

CJI Bobde justified the change in the court’s stand by saying “We were informed that it would be well impossible to ensure that there is no congregation. This Court was, therefore, left with no option but to grant an injunction restraining the Rath Yatra itself”. 

Instructions are:-

1.All entry points into Puri – airports, railway stations, bus stands etc – shall be closed during the festival.

 

2.The state government shall impose a curfew in Puri on all the days during the time when the Rath Yatra chariots are taken in procession. The state government may also impose curfew in Puri on such other days and during such time as deemed necessary. The curfew shall begin on Monday night itself at 8 pm.

 

3.Each rath, that is, chariot, shall be pulled by not more than 500 persons. Each of those 500 persons shall be tested for coronavirus. They shall be permitted to pull the chariot only if they have been found negative. The number 500 shall include officials and police personnel.

 

4.There shall be an interval of one hour between two chariots.

 

5.Each of those who is engaged in pulling the chariot shall maintain social distancing before, during and after the Rath Yatra.

 

6.Only such persons shall be associated with the rituals who have been found to have tested negative and shall maintain social distancing.

 

7.The primary responsibility for conducting the Rath Yatra in accordance with these conditions shall be that of the committee in-charge of Puri Jagannath Temple Administration.

 

8.The rituals and the Rath Yatra shall be freely covered by the visual media.

 

9.The bare minimum number of people shall be allowed by the committee to participate in the rituals and in the Rath Yatra.

 

10.The state government shall maintain a record containing details of all those who have been allowed to participate in the Rath Yatra or the rituals  connected therewith along with details of their medical conditions after testing.

 

Following the SC restrictions, Rath Yatra was held successfully in Puri.

 

The Supreme Court decision on Jagannath Rath Yatra is very helpful to the carpenters and devotees who are getting engaged themselves in building chariots. They work not for money, but out of love, affection and above all respect for Lord Jagannath.

 

 The makers of the three gigantic chariots, which are pulled by lakhs of devotees, include seven groups of workers – the viswakarma or those who do the actual construction, the kartias or those who cut the wood, the bhois or those who carry the wood, the lohars or ironsmiths, the roopkars who do the artwork on the chariots, the chitrakars who paint them and the tailors. In total they number more than 200, most of the workers, at least the leaders of each group, have been doing this for generations.

 

Every year the three chariots are made of wood brought from Daspalla forest in Nayagarh district. The government has also exclusive "Jagannath Bana Prakalpa", a massive plantation project which provides logs for the purpose.

 

"Nandighosh", the chariot of Lord Jagannath, is the tallest at 45 feet with 16 wheels, while Lord Balabhadra's "Taladhwaja" is 44 feet high with 14 wheels. Their sister Devi Subhadra's chariot "Darpadalana" is 43 feet high and has 2 wheels.

 

About 45 days are required for the construction of the chariots starting from Akshaya Tritiya.

 

The Rath Yatra goes back all the way to 1558.

According to Bhaskar Mishra, a researcher of Jagannath culture, the festival did not take place 32 times between 1558 and 1735 due to Mughal invasions. It, however, was held during the outbreak of the Spanish flu in 1919.

 

                   Significance of Rath Yatra.

The word Jagannath is made up of two words Jaga which means Universe and Nath means Lord that is ‘Lord of Universe’. In fact, the Lord Jagannath is considered as one of the reincarnations of avatars of Lord Vishnu. Every year, the Rath Yatra is celebrated by the devotees. Idols are taken out on a chariot and the three chariots are pulled by the devotees through the streets of Puri to the Gundicha temple a few kilometres away. There is a belief that pulling the chariots of their God during the procession is a way of engaging in the pure devotion of Lord and it also destroys the sins which might be committed either knowingly or unknowingly.

 

Jagannath Rath Yatra is celebrated by millions of devotees that came from across the world to seek the blessings of God's and fulfil their wishes. The atmosphere at the time of Rath Yatra is so pure and beautiful. Devotees with the chariots keep singing songs, mantras with the sound of drum beatings. Jagannath Rath Yatra is also famous as Gundicha Yatra, Chariot Festival, Dasavatara and Navadina Yatra.