Mrunal Manmay Dash

Bhubaneswar: The enforcement of lockdown to thwart the spread of Coronavirus infection has now raised uncertainty over the celebration of Rukuna Rath Yatra of Lord Lingaraj scheduled to be held on April 1, 2020 even though the construction of chariot used for the festival is underway as per the usual practice.

It may be noted that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and Odisha government have clearly laid down the lockdown regulations barring any kind of religious congregation which may invite public participation and also specifically mentioned that all such institutions like temples, mosques, churches and Gurudwaras will be closed for public as a precautionary measure against the viral outbreak.

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However, the norms also mentioned that any important rituals pertaining to famous shrines like Srimandir or Lord Lingaraj Temple can also be completed customarily without participation of public.

A reality check at the Lord Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar showed that despite enforcement of social distancing norms, the construction of Lord Lingaraj’s chariot could be seen going on in full swing.

As per the chief architect of the chariot, Batakrushna Maharana, construction of the chariot had begun eight days before Dola Purnima with 70 artisans toiling day in and out to complete the work before 31st March 2020.

Speaking about the guidelines issued by the government on Coronavirus, Batakrushna said, “We haven’t faced any problems in the construction yet. Though we know the guidelines, it’s our duty to complete the chariot before time.”

“We all know about the lockdown and the rules pertaining to that, but we, as servitors have been exempted from its ambit. We were not barred to perform rituals of the Lord,” explained a servitor.

Similarly, another carpenter engaged in the construction of the chariot said, “We don’t have any other option and we’ll have to come out of home in order to complete the work before Lord Lingaraj’s chariot rolls out on Ashokastami.”

Congress leader and Jatni MLA Sura Routray, while welcoming the decision by PM Modi and CM Naveen Patnaik to enforce strict lockdown measures has requested the state to not cancel Rukuna Rath Yatra by any means.

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“The rituals of Lord Lingaraj shouldn’t stop at any cost. The police personnel and the servitors of the Lord can pull the chariot if needed, but the chariot must roll,” said Routray.