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Mrunal Manmay Dash

An air of spiritualism and divinity gripped Bhawanipatna, the district headquarter of Kalahandi on Wednesday, as Maa Manikeswari, the reigning deity of the Western Odisha town, ventured out of her abode for her annual sojourn called ‘Chhatar Jatra’.

However, the annual festival that normally witnesses congregation of lakhs of people every year has been left devoid of its vivacity due to Section-144 restrictions enforced by the district administration on the participation of public in the festival at the town as part of its efforts to check the spread of Coronavirus.

per reports, the prohibitory orders have been enforced from 8 pm on Tuesday till 4 pm on Wednesday. Apart from that, to ensure the strict compliance of the protocols, all the entry points to the town have been sealed and 10 platoons of Police forces have been deployed to deal with any possible law and order situation during the Jatra.

As per the long-followed customs at the shrine, Maa Manikeswari is taken out of her temple for this divine journey on the eighth day of Shukla Paksh (Astami) in the month of Ashwina.

The deity was taken to Jenakhala in the suburbs of Bhawanipatna at midnight yesterday after completion of ‘Shodasa Puja’ ritual.

While animal sacrifice is a major part of the festival as thousands of devotees sacrifice animals during the Yatra, Kalahandi Collector, Gavali Parag Harshad has discouraged public to stay away from the practice.

"We have deployed officers in all parts of the town to urge people to not resort to animal sacrifice.

Aggrieved by the prohibitory orders, a devotee said, "We have been barred to worship Maa Manikeswari during Chhatar Yatra and I am sad that like last year, this time around too we are not able to watch her Yatra either.

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