Bhubaneswar, May 7 (PTI) : Center allowed construction of the chariots for Ratha Jatra during the lockdown for the religious procession but the decision of holding the Rath Jatra in Puri would be taken by the Odisha government keeping in mind the prevailing COVID-19 situation .
In a letter to the state government, the Union Home Ministry said construction of the chariots had been allowed in the ”Ratha Khala”, which is situated on both sides of the Grand Road in front of the Jagannath temple office and the Sri Nahar palace in Puri, subject to fulfilling conditions.
The green signal from Delhi came a day after the state government had sought the ministry”s consent for undertaking the chariots construction for the annual festival in the pilgrim town of Puri.
No religious congregation should take place in the ”Ratha Khala” and complete segregation of people engaged in the chariot construction should be ensured, the ministry said.
However, the decision of holding the Rath Yatra, which is scheduled for June 23, would be taken by the state government, keeping in view the conditions prevailing at that point of time, the letter said.
According to the guidelines issued for the ongoing lockdown, religious congregation is strictly prohibited.
The ministry said the managing committee of the Shri Jagannath Temple, following a meeting on Monday, urged for permission to construct the chariots in the ”Ratha Khala”.
The committee said no religious congregation takes place in the ”Ratha 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 ”Ratha Khala” will be done from the adjoining Grand Road and adjoining properties by erecting a cloth partition wall so that public can be effectively prohibited, the temple committee said.
The committed added that the national directives for COVID-19 management would be fully implemented, according to the letter.
The Centre”s nod for starting the chariot construction was required due to the nationwide lockdown over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had last month held discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on uncertainty over organising the Rath Yatra because of the novel coronavirus crisis.
Bijay Mohapatra, the chief carpenter of the Lord Jagannath”s Nadighosh chariot, has said the construction of the chariots was supposed to begin on ”Akshaya Tritiya” on April 26.
“Already 12 days have been lost and now it will be a challenging task to complete the work in time,” Mohapatra said.
Around 10 lakh devotees from across the country and abroad throng the seaside pilgrim town during the Rath Yatra every year.
The festival commemorates Lord Jagannath”s annual visit to the Gundicha Temple via Mausi Maa Temple (maternal aunt”s home) near Saradha Bali, Puri.
As part of yatra, the deities — Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and younger sister Devi Subhadra, along with Sudarshan — are taken out in a procession out of the main shrine and placed in the chariots, which are ready in front of the temple. src PTI & Outlook