Rath Jatra Is Mandated

Holding Lord Jagannath’s Annual Ratha Jatra in Puri is 
Sanctioned and Mandated.

This is what Gajapati Maharaja of Puri Dibyasingha Deb told Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik while urging the State Government to immediately file an application in the Supreme Court seeking modification of its June 18 where stay has been put on the Ratha Jatra.

Maharaja said this quoting the sacred scriptures, such as, Skanda Purana, Brahma Purana, Neeladri Mahodaya, Bamadeba Samhita etc.

“These scriptures clearly state that Shree Shree Jagannatha Mahaprabhu (also referred to in the scriptures as Shree Purushottama) is the Supreme Lord. He is not an Avatara but the Avatari and the Shree Jagannath Dham is His Eternal Abode on this planet earth,” Maharaja, who is also the Chairman of the Temple Managing Committee said in a letter to the Chief Minister.

Upon his divine manifestation in “Chaturdha-Daru Vigraha” form during the 2nd Satya Yuga of the first 
manvatara, the Lord himself commanded the sovereign ruler (Maharaja Indradyumna) to perform the Ratha Yatra every year on the specific day (Asadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya) as He desired to visit the sacred place of his first manifestation (now Gundicha Temple) and spend 7 days there (vide: Skanda Purana, Purushottama-kshetra Mahatmya, Chapter 29, shlokas 30-40).

“This Command of the Lord himself has been faithfully observed since time immemorial by the succeeding rulers of Odisha,” Maharaja mentioned in the letter.

In an urgent meeting of Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee held at Puri on Friday was followed up in by a second meeting of the committee today in which the senior members of Chhattisha Nijog submitted their views regarding the steps to be taken with respect to the order passed by the Supreme Court on June 18 prohibiting conduct of Rath Jatra and the direction issued on the same evening by the State Cabinet to the Temple Managing Committee for implementing the said order and for ensuring proper performance of all seva-puja (rituals) of the Lords within the precincts of the Jagannath temple.

While justifying his argument, the Maharaja said: “In the course of Odisha’s long history, Rath Jatra has not been held only when its conduct has become impossible, as for instance, during attacks by Mughal forces during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, when the Lords had to be hidden in remote places.

The Jatra, however, has not been stopped for any other reason whatsoever and has been faithfully performed even in the midst of the worst natural disasters and epidemics”.

The Maharaja also said that the prevailing grave crisis caused by COVID pandemic, is not a situation which renders impossible conduct of Ratha Jatra in Puri.
The Managing Committee at its meeting on May 30, has recommended that the Jatra can be held without any congregation of the general public and with the state government taking appropriate steps to prevent the spread of COVID.
“If the Ratha Jatra is not held this year in Puri, it will hurt the religious sentiments of countless devotees around the world who watch the sacred festival live every year on electronic media. As His very name indicates, Lord Jagannath during this sacred festival comes out of the temple and rides on the chariots so that all beings not only on this planet but in the entire universe can be blessed by his darshan and obtain his grace,” the Maharaja said.
It is an established tradition of Sanatana Vaidika Dharma that the presiding deities do not at all leave their throne/sanctum sanctorum. But Lord Jagannath Himself created an exception to this general rule by coming out of the temple to bless all beings as he is the Lord of the Universe, he pointed out.
This is one of the main objectives of the Ratha Yatra in Puri as mentioned in the sacred scriptures (vide: Skanda Purana, Purushottama-kshetra Mahatmya, Chapter 33, shlokas 94-97, Neeladri Mahodaya, Chapter 16, shloka 171), the Maharaja said.
The conduct of the annual Rath Jatra on the prescribed day is statutorily and dated by Record of Rights (ROR) (Part II, pages 69-81) framed under the Puri Shri Jagannath Temple (Administration) Act, 1952. Under Sec 15 (1) of Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1955, the Managing Committee of the temple is statutorily bound to ensure the conduct of Ratha Jatra in accordance with the ROR.
Maharaja said: “The Ratha Jatra in Puri is of special significance and importance and should not be stopped.”
He also pointed out that a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court in Raja Birakishore Deb vrs. State of Orissa (AIR 1964 SC 1501) has acknowledged the unique and special importance of Shri Jagannath Temple in Puri which “requires special treatment” by the state government.
 “The Government may, therefore, stop the conduct of Ratha Jatras throughout the state, but the Ratha Jatra in Puri should be permitted, as a special case, by the state government with an undertaking at the same time for effective measures to ensure that there is no spread of COVID by the conduct of the Jatra,” he said.
The Gajapati Maharaja also attached a copy of the statement of the Jagadguru Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati Maharaj, who has expressed his view in favour of the Supreme Court to reconsider and modify its order of June 18 so as to enable the conduct of Rath Jatra in Puri.
Maharaja has requested the Chief Minister to reconsider this sensitive issue and direct appropriate steps to be immediately taken by the State Government for approaching the Apex Court for partial modification of its aforesaid order so as to permit the performance of Ratha Jatra only at Puri, the original shrine of Lord Jagannath.

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