Bhubaneswar: Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath can be only held if the government can ensure that no devotees are allowed into Puri Bada Danda, informed Puri king Gajapati Maharaj Dibya Singha Deb.
However, the final decision lies with the State Government, Deb clarified.
Deb made the statement while briefing reporters after a meeting of the Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee.
“Rath Yatra was also discussed at the meeting. The opinion was that Rath Yatra be held as per rules. But keeping in view the situation arising out of COVID, our members opined that it would be inappropriate to allow devotees to participate in Rath Yatra. They proposed before the government that Rath Yatra can be possible in absence of devotees in the Bada Danda with only concerned officials, police force and sevayats and devotees can have darshan of the Rath Yatra in their homes through the media,” Gajapati Maharaj said.
None of us can say what effect it will have on COVID if 8-9 lakh devotees are allowed to gather on the Bada Danda, he added.
“The managing committee decided that if the State Government permits, Rath Yatra can be held without congregation of devotees/pilgrims. The government has to make arrangements so that devotees do not visit Puri. The government has to make arrangement that no one is allowed to enter Bada Danda on the days of the Yatra. Provided the government makes such arrangements and it depends on the decision of the government then holding of Rath Yatra can be possible,” the Gajapati Maharaj clarified.
The decisions taken at today’s meeting are only applicable to Sri Mandir since its tradition and glory is unique, he pointed out.
“It is Sri Mandir which is on one side and the remaining Jagannath temples in the world on the other side, Sri Mandir is home of the Mahaprabhu Jagannath, who is paramatma, parambrahma, it’s His moola peetha (main shrine),” the adyasevak (first servitor ) of Lord Jagannath stated.
Quoting from Skanda Purana, the Gajapati Maharaj said, “The Lord says: On my abirbhava dibas you shall bathe Me and keep at the place I appeared.”
This is applicable for Sri Mandir at Sri Khetra, the government can think differently for other temples, he added.
“The restrictions shall have to remain in force for the seven days the Mahaprabhu will stay at Gundicha Temple, Bahuda Yatra and till Niladri Bije. Therefore it is not possible to allow entry of general devotees to Bada Danda during Mahaprabhu’s Yatra till Niladri Bije,” the Gajapati Maharaj further clarified.
He said that the Managing Committee has opined that holding of Mahaprabhu’s yatra from Gundicha to Niladri Bije is possible with concerned officials, sevayats and police in absence of devotees on the Bada Danda but the decision will depend on the State Government.
Deb further said that State government will take a decision whether Rath Yatra can be held as lockdown 4.0 will end after a day and new lockdown 5.0 guideline will come into force.
“We have to study what guidelines the Central Government brings for religious congregation/function. Basing on that new guideline the State government will take a decision on our proposal,” he stated.
Whatever decision is taken by the State Government will be fully adhered to by the temple administration and the managing committee, he added.
On Snana Yatra, the Gajapati Maharaj said that this yatra of the Mahaprabhu is held completely inside the Sri Mandir premises i.e. within the Meghanada Pacheri (perimeter wall of the temple).
“This yatra of Mahaprabhu will be held inside the Sri Mandir with limited attendance of sevayats (sevayats) and administrative officials deployed for the yatra. Like every year, Snana Yatra rituals of the Mahaprabhu will be conducted as per rules, the schedule of which has been fixed,” he explained.
In view of the situation due to COVID Sri Mandir will remain shut for devotees, he added.
“Devotees won’t be allowed to have direct darshan of the Mahaprabhu. The temple administration has entrusted the I&PR Department for direct telecast of the Snana Yatra and share the feed with all media channels. Devotees of Mahaprabhu worldwide can have His darshan sitting in their homes,” Deb stated.
He said that sevayats will adhere to COVID guidelines as far as possible and all precautions-testing, home quarantine etc with regard to their health will be taken so that there is no risk with regard to COVID or it is minimized.