Suryakant Jena

Just two weeks before the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath begins in Puri, the rising demands for conduct of the annual festival of Siddha Baladevjew in Kendrapara has now reached the doors of the Supreme Court of India.

A Special Leave Petition has been filed by one Madan Patri seeking the apex court’s directives in ordering the Odisha government to allow celebration of the Rath Yatra festivities in the town amid strict adherence to Covid guidelines.

In the plea, Patri has prayed before the Supreme Court that the car festival of Siddha Baladevjew can be organised sans devotees to prevent any outbreak of the virus cases.

The Rath Yatra may be allowed with the participation of only sevayats following all Covid guidelines, testing and vaccination in the lines of the annual festival at Puri Shree Jagannath Temple, the petitioner has reportedly said in his appeal.

Last week, the Orissa High had rejected five petitions filed before it seeking permission to hold the Rath Yatra at two places including Baladevjew in Kendrapara, popularly known as Tulasi Khetra and Bhatli in Bargarh.

The Odisha government had earlier this month ruled that the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath will be held on July 12 only in Puri keeping in mind the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court. The state authorities have banned the rituals at all other places of the state except the pilgrim town Puri.

After a serious speculation last year during the first wave of the pandemic, the Supreme Court of India had permitted the Rath Yatra in Puri to be held on the condition that there is no public attendance and all entry points into the town remain closed. It also said each of the three chariots, would be pulled by limited number of selected participants as per the guidelines formulated in view of the pandemic.