Rath Yatra 2020 held in Puri under curfew due to COVID-19; all you need to know about the famous chariot festival

The festival of Rath Yatra sees the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra being brought out of the temple every year during the third month of the Hindu Calendar.

FP Trending June 23, 2020 16:58:49 IST
Rath Yatra 2020 held in Puri under curfew due to COVID-19; all you need to know about the famous chariot festival

The Supreme Court modified its 18 June order staying the Jagannath Rath Yatra, permitting the chariot festival to be held with certain conditions that included no public participation and imposition of curfew in the city due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival of Rath Yatra sees the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra being brought out of the temple every year during the third month of the Hindu Calendar.

Rath Yatra 2020 held in Puri under curfew due to COVID19 all you need to know about the famous chariot festival

File image of historic Lord Jagannath's Rath Yatra in Puri. PTI

The nine-day festival celebrates the annual journey of Lord Jagannath and his siblings to the Gundicha Temple, which is their aunt's place around 2.5 km away.

As per a report in BBC, the Rath Yatra is the only festival in the world where deities are taken out of temples to travel to devotees. The one in Puri is also the largest chariot procession in the world.

The report reveals that three massive 18-wheeled chariots bearing the deities make their way through massive crowds. Their chariots are constructed over 42 days from over 4,000 pieces of wood by a family that has the hereditary rights to make them.

Legend has it that Indrayumna, the King of Puri decided to build a temple to house the log he believed was the body of Lord Krishna. God’s architect Vishwakarma arrived as an old carpenter and agreed to carve the idols. However, he had one condition. He was not to be disturbed while carving the idols. However, after weeks of waiting, an impatient King threw the door open only to find the images half-finished, and the carpenter disappeared.

The report adds that at the end of the festival, the chariots are dismantled and the woods are used as fuel in the temple kitchens, which are believed to be the largest in the world, cooking 56 things every day and feeding 2000 to 200,000 people.

The festival also sees the king of Puri sweeping the floor with a broom stick before  the procession begins, Initially it seems that Lord Jagannath refuses to go and despite the crowd pulling, the chariot cannot be moved an inch. However, following hours of efforts, the chariot moves forward, triggering the procession.

According to a report in Hindustan Times, Lord Jagannath’s chariot Nandighosa is 45.6 feet in height and has 18 wheels. Lord Balabhadra's chariot is 45- feet tall and comes with 16 wheels and is known as Taladhvaja. Goddess Subhadra’s 44.6 feet chariot with 14 wheels is called Devadalana.

The report adds that the Rath Yatra, which is being held for 425 years has been stopped 32 times, mostly due to invasions. The festival was first not held in 1568 when a general of Bengal king Suleiman Kirrani, Kala Pahad alias Kala Chand Roy attacked the temple and pillaged the deities. The last time it was not held was between 1733 and 1735. Mohammed Taqi Khan the deputy governor of Odisha, attacked the Jagannath temple and the deities had to be moved away.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had stayed the historic Rath Yatra at Puri, with Chief Justice Bobde saying, “Lord Jagannath won't forgive us if we allow this year's Rath Yatra.” The bench said social gatherings cannot take place due to the rampant rise in coronavirus cases across the country.

According to the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde, the apex court is only considering conducting the yatra in Puri and not anywhere else in Odisha.

The apex court in its order said, "Rath, i.e, Chariot, shall be pulled by not more than 500 persons. Each of those 500 persons shall be tested for the coronavirus . They shall be permitted to pull the chariot only if they have been found negative. The number 500 shall include officials and police personnel."

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