Ramakanta Biswas

Puri: As clouds of uncertainty continue to loom over the annual Rath Yatra in Puri this year in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the Daitapati Nijog (servitors' body) of Srimandir today suggested that the Odisha government can organise the festival in a restricted manner.

In a letter to CM Naveen Patnaik, the servitor body stated that the world-famous Rath Yatra was organised even in earlier crises during sepoy mutiny, the famine of 1866 and the 1918 flu pandemic in India.

“The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 had severely affected several countries across the world including India. The pandemic known as Bombay influenza pandemic in India had claimed millions of lives. We gave examples of such crises when Rath Yatra was not cancelled and requested the CM to conduct the festival this year too in a restricted manner,” said secretary of Daitapati Nijog, Durga Prasad Das Mohapatra.

“Keeping in view the tradition and sentiments of people, the festival can be conducted in strict adherence to the coronavirus lockdown guidelines. All the entry points in Puri can be sealed and people can be asked to watch Rath Yatra on television from their home. The government can also conduct COVID19 tests of all the servitors and police personnel who will be involved in the festival,” he added.

Senior servitor Ganesh Das Mohapatra also echoed a similar view. “In the past, many such crises had occurred, but Rath Yatra was conducted. We have put forth our suggestions and appealed the government to consider them and ensure that the festival is conducted this year,” he said.

The servitors’ body said it will also hold discussions with Gajapati Maharaj and Puri Shankaracharya in this regard.

The suggestions of the servitors’ body came a day after the Mukti Mandap, the highest body of Hindu religious scholars in Puri Srimandir, had said that there is no harm if the annual Rath Yatra is not held this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier, Odisha Law minister Pratap Jena had said whether Rath Yatra will be organised or not this year is under discussion and a decision in this regard will be taken soon.