Rajendra Prasad Mohapatra

Bhawanipatna: The famous Chatar Yatra of Goddess Manikeswari in Bhawanipatna was celebrated here on Friday in adherence to Covid-19 guidelines without the participation of devotees.

While all the rituals were conducted as per tradition, no devotees were allowed to participate in the festival. Only priests, drummers of Jenabadya and a troupe of martial band ‘Ghumura’ were allowed to accompany the Chhatar when it was carried back to the temple from Jenakhal.

Generally, more than five lakh devotees gather to catch the glimpse of the goddess during the return of Chhatar every year. They fly pigeons and sacrifice animals during the period. However, the devotees were not allowed for darshan of the goddess this year in view of Covid-19 restrictions.

All entry points to Bhawanipatna were sealed till October 24 by the administration in view of the festival. Besides, Section 144 of CrPC has been imposed in the town from Friday till October 25 and restrictions on movement were in place till then barring travel for medical emergencies.

“It’s a very tragic situation. Devotees are distressed not to get darshan of Goddess Manikeswari. The festival attracts more than 5 lakh devotees from different parts of Odisha and other states every year. But this year the administration was forced to conduct the historical yatra with only around 100 people including the servitors and administrators for the very first time due to the unprecedented pandemic situation. It’s really unfortunate,” said a devotee.

Even as the Supreme Court has stayed the Orissa High Court’s order on animal sacrifice during the festival, the district administration asked people to refrain from the practice.

(Edited by Ramakant Biswas)