A call on Puri’s famous Rath Yatra can be taken by the Odisha government, the Supreme Court said today after petitions asking it to recall its earlier order, banning the hugely popular festival. The state will assess the ground situation and if need be, take steps to restrict the festivities, the top court said a day ahead of the seven-day festival is slated to begin. Soon after the order, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik tweeted saying “Jai Jagannath” and hashtag #RathYatra became a top twitter trend.
Later, Odisha minister Arun Kr Sahoo told reporters, “On behalf of devotees of Lord Jagannath, the government of Odisha welcomes this decision of Supreme Court”.
“All guidelines will be followed strictly. It’s our duty to look after how Rath Yatra can be conducted peacefully and safely. State government will take all measures,” news agency ANI quoted him as saying.
Announcing that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already discussed the issue with the erstwhile royals of Puri and the Puri Shankaracharya, Union minister Amit Shah tweeted: “Today is a special day for all of us, particularly our Odia sisters and brothers as well as devotees of Mahaprabhu Shri Jagannath Ji. The entire nation is delighted by the decision of the Honourable Supreme Court to ensure the Rath Yatra goes on”.
The Rath Yatra from the Jagannath temple — the biggest temple of the Lord Jagannath in the coastal district of Puri, is attended by lakhs of people from across the world. But in view of the highly contagious coronavirus outbreak, the court had ordered a ban on the festival this year, saying “Such gatherings can’t take place at the time of the pandemic”.
Earlier today, offering to impose curfew for a day to ensure that the virus does not spread, the Centre had said Rath Yatra is a “matter of faith for crores” and a ritual “going on for centuries cannot be interfered with”.
“Only people tested negative (for coronavirus) and working in the Lord Jagannath temple can be part of the ritual… If Lord Jagannath will not come out tomorrow, he cannot come out for 12 years as per traditions,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the Centre, had told the Supreme Court.
In the evening, Chief Justice SA Bobde, who heard the case through vidoconference from Nagpur, said, “The Supreme Court is only considering conducting the Rath Yatra in Puri and not anywhere else in Orissa”.