Akshaya Tritiya festivals to be held at Puri temple

Lockdown: Lord Jagannath's Chandan Jatra, Akshaya Tritiya festivals to be held on Puri temple premises

The 'Chandan Jatra' and 'Akshaya Tritiya' festivals of Lord Jagannath will be held on the temple premises in Odisha's Puri on Sunday, in view of the nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the spread of novel coronavirus, Gajapati Maharaja of Puri, Divya Singha Deb said.

The decision was taken during the temple managing committee's meeting with Govardhan Peeth Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati on Friday night, he said.

"As per the advice of Guruji (Shankaracharya), it has been decided to conduct both the Akshaya Tritiya and the Chandan Jatra on the temple premises. The Guruji said the tradition of the temple should be maintained and the centuries-old rituals cannot stop," Deb told reporters.

The rituals will be performed by selected priests and servitors but devotees will not be allowed inside the temple premises, he said.

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The Gajapati Maharaja had earlier said the temple administration will not undertake any activities outside the religious institution's premises in view of the lockdown.

Akshaya Tritiya is held at the 'Rath Khala' outside the temple while the Chandan Jatra is organised in a tank in Puri.

He, however, said the decision on holding the Rath Jatra will be taken after May 3.

Apart from Gajapati Maharaja, members of the Jagannath Temple Management Committee, including Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) Chief Administrator Krishan Kumar, the Puri district collector and the superintendent of police had met the Shankaracharya to seek his advice on how to conduct the rituals amid the lockdown.

The Gajapati Maharaja said the lockdown guidelines prohibit religious congregations both inside and outside the temple. The 12th-century shrine has been closed to devotees since the imposition of lockdown in Odisha on March 22.

SJTA Chief Administrator Krishna Kumar said the collector and the SP will hold a meeting with the servitors of the temple on Saturday to decide on the place in the premises where the Chandan Jatra and Akshaya Tritiya rituals will be held.

"During the Chandan Jatra, or the 'sandalwood voyage' of Lord Jagannath, images of the deity are floated on a boat in a sacred tank in Puri. It is the longest festival of Lord Jagannath that is held for 42 days in two phases," Bhaskar Mishra, a researcher on the Jagannath culture, said.

Akshaya Tritiya marks the beginning of construction of chariots for the annual Rath Yatra

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