Construction of chariots for the annual Rath Yatra has begun in Puri, Odisha, even as the country completes its seventh week of lockdown due to coronavirus. The yatra is scheduled for June 23.
Speaking to ANI, Ajay Jena, Administrator Development Officer, Jagannath Temple Administration, said, "A total of 72 workers are constructing the chariot. The Centre has given approval for construction, with conditions. In order to prevent mingling of 'rath sevaks' with their families, the temple administration has decided to keep them in three 'bhakt nivas' of the temple."
Earlier, the Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee said that the construction of chariots for the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath as it is "not a religious function" but an activity associated with construction, which is permitted by the government during lockdown.
Earlier in April, PTI reported that Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had held discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday over organising Lord Jagannath's "Rath Yatra" in Puri this year.
The 12th-century shrine in Puri has remained closed for devotees since March 22, though the temple rituals are being followed by the priests as usual. Earlier, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government in the state had suspended the "Rukuna Rath Yatra", the annual festival of Lord Lingaraj, this year due to the ongoing nationwide lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) had started discussions with Govardhan Peeth Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati and Gajapati Maharaja Dibya Singha Deb.