Ahead of Lord Jagannath's famous Snan Purnima (bathing ritual) festival scheduled on June 5, the Odisha government Wednesday conducted coronavirus test of at least 75 servitors in the first phase, official sources said.
The bathing ritual is part of the world famous Puri 'Rath Yatra' (car festival).
Though preparations are on for the Lord Jagannth's annual Rath Yatra, scheduled on June 23, the event is still under uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As per the decision taken earlier, with the consent of all the servitors, about 500 of them would undergo the coronavirus test before participating in the Snana Purnima festival.
In the first phase, the swab samples of 75 Daitapati servitors were collected, while an equal number of others would give the samples on Thursday, Puri Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO), Nilakahntha Mishra, told PTI.
The servitors whose sample tests come negative can only attend the rituals Lord on June 5. All the servitors cleared for participation in the rituals will remain in home quarantine till end of the Puri rath yatra festival, the official said.
Apart from Daitapati servitors, the members of other Nijogs (groups) will also be subjected to the corona examination. The servitors themselves had offered to undergo the test in order to pave way for the smooth conduct of the Lord Jagannth's annual Rath Yatra.
"Yes, we want a smooth festival and therefore voluntarily offered to undergo corona test," said R K Dasmahapatra, a servitor.
Meanwhile, after a meeting of "Chhattisa Nijog" (36 groups) of servitors, Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) Wednesday announced the schedule for the rituals of the deities for Snana Jatra on June 5.
The ceremonial Pahandi (procession) of the Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra will be held between 1 am and 4 am while the Snana (bathing) rituals will be performed between 7.30 am and 9.30 am on June 5, said SJTA chief administrator Krishan Kumar.
The ceremonial bathing will be followed by the Chhera Panhara, a ritual of sweeping the altar on which the deities are seated during the bath, at 10.30 am.
The "Hati Besha" (elephant attire) of the Lords will be held between 11 am and 12 pm and Bahuda (return) Pahandi between 5 pm and 8 pm, Kumar said.
Kumar, however, said that it is a difficult task to maintain social-distancing norms during the Pahandi of the Lords. He has asked the Nijogs to submit number of servitors to be associated with the bathing rituals on June 5.
Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri remain closed for devotees since March 22 in wake of the lockdown for the COVID pandemic.