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All Eyes On SJTA Decision

Puri: With Odisha Government allowing opening of religious places with appropriate COVID-19 restrictions across the state from Sunday as part of its unlock process, all eyes are now set on 4 August when the authorities of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) takes a decision for reopening of the 12th century shrine in Puri.

Chief Administrator SJTA, Dr.Krishan Kumar has convened a meeting on virtual mode on 4 August to take decision of allowing the devotees entry into the shrine, a senior official said.

He said Puri District Collector, SP, Puri Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO), members of the Temple’s Co-ordination Committee and temple officials will attend the meeting to take stock of the corona situation and decide when to open the shrine for the devotees, who have been denied opportunity to attend the Lord’s Ratha Jatra last month. 

The State Government on its August guideline has categorically said that SJTA, Puri and Shree Lingaraj Temple Administration, Bhubaneswar, may decide opening of temples under their management for public darshan in consultation with the concerned stakeholders and in compliance of COVID-19 safety protocols and appropriate restrictions

The Government notification also said that the religious places across the state will be opened based on the local assessment of the situation by district authorities. However, no prasad will be offered by devotees, the notification said.

Shree Jagannath Temple continues to remain out of bounds for the public for around 100 days due to rise in COVID-19 cases. Even the devotees were prohibited to attend the Lord’s annual Ratha Jatra on July 12 and other rituals associated with the festival by imposing shutdown and curfew in the pilgrim town.

In the wake of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SJTA on April 24, decided to suspend public entry into the Puri even as all daily rituals were performed by servitors and other temple staff.

During Ratha Jatra, the district administration of Puri had imposed 48-hour curfew twice during the festival to restrict entry of outsiders, trains, buses and other private vehicles were not allowed to enter the town during the period till July 24.Even the local residents of Puri were not allowed to visit the Grand Road in front of the Temple on which the three chariots rolled during the Ratha Jatra.

The local people as well as the tourists were also prevented from witnessing the festival from rooftops as all the hotels, lodges, guest houses were shut on the occasion to ensure that the festival is conducted without devotees. 

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