No major harm if Rath Jatra not held: Religious body

No major harm if Rath Jatra not held, says religious body

Mukti Mandap, the highest religious dispute resolving body in Lord Jagannath shrine in Puri, said on Monday that there is "no such major harm" if the annual Rath Jatra festival is not held this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement signed by its working president Biswanath Mishra and secretary Ajit Mishra, Mukti Mandap said that the Rath Jatra did not take place following attacks by invaders in the past. Therefore, there is no such harm if the festival is not held this time.

The lord will be really happy if his devotees, priests and people remain healthy and safe, it said.

However, the opinion of Jagatguru Shankaracharya is supreme and acceptable to all, it added.

Mukti Mandap, however, has suggested that the government can organise the Rath Jatra with a limited number of priests by sealing the Puri town.

This year's Rath Jatra is supposed to take place on June 23.

The fear over the coronavirus pandemic can be tackled if the administration organises the festival by taking tough measures, Mukti Mandap said, adding that lakhs of devotees can watch the festival through television by sitting at their homes.

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Mukti Mandap's statement regarding Rath Jatra is significant as Gajapati Maharaja Divya Singha Deb last week stated that the decision on whether to conduct the festival depends on the guidelines issued after the lockdown is lifted on May 3.

He said the temple will abide by the guidelines of the Centre and the state government in regard to the lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The temple on Sunday held its two important rituals -- 'Chandan Jatra' (sandalwood festival) and 'Akshaya Tritiya' (beginning of chariot construction work) -- inside its premises. These rituals are usually held outside the temple, but this time was performed in the presence of a limited number of servitors.

The 12th-century shrine is closed for devotees for over a month due to the lockdown. 

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