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Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: A day after Odisha government sought Centre's permission to commence the construction of chariots of Lord Balabhadra, Mahaprabhu Jagannath and Devi Subhadra for the ensuing Rath Yatra, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday gave its approval for the same making it clear that the construction activity should be carried out as per COVID-19 lockdown guidelines.

The Home Ministry has also clarified that the decision regarding holding of Rath Yatra is to be taken by the State Government keeping in view the conditions prevailing during the festival.

In a letter to Odisha Chief Secretary, the MHA said that Rath construction is allowed in the Rath-khala, which is situated on both sides of the Grand Road (Bada Danda) in front of the Srimandir Temple Office and Sri Nahar (Palace).

However, the temple management has been asked to ensure that no religious congregation takes place in the Rath-khala. This apart, complete segregation of the Rath-khala should be ensured, the letter mentioned.

The management would compulsorily adhere to the new guidelines on lockdown measures issued by MHA on May 1, including the National Directives for Covid-19 Management.

The letter also highlighted the decisions taken at the meeting of Sri Jagannath Temple Managing Committee on May 4. The Committee had recommended the state government to allow construction of chariots for Rath Yatra scheduled to be held on June 23 this year after unanimous decisions as follows:

  • The Ratha construction activities in the Rath-khala, which is situated on both sides of the Grand Road in front of the Temple Office and Sri Nahar (Palace) be immediately permitted.
  • No religious congregation takes place in the Rath-khala as it is a workplace and not a public place accessible to the general public. However, for effective COVID-19 management, complete segregation of the Rath-khala from adjoining Grand Road and adjoining properties by erecting a cloth partition wall so that public can be effectively prohibited.
  • The lockdown guidelines of the Government of India given in its May 1 Order and the National Directives for Covid-19 Management, will be fully implemented.

.The temple doors have been shut since March 20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but day-to-day rituals are being conducted by the servitors.

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