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Covid Negative Servitors To Pull Chariots

Puri: With Lord Jagannath’s annual car festival left less than a fortnight to go, Odisha government Saturday said the event will be organized without any gathering of devotees either in front of chariots or also on the rooftops of the buildings on both sides of the grand road.

Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) Chief Administrator Krishan Kumar said: “It has been decided that only COVID-19 negative servitors will pull the chariots this time. Neither police personnel or the officials will be allowed to touch ropes used for pulling the chariots.”

He said the police personnel will be allowed to pull the chariots before they are pulled on the return car festival.

Dr.Kumar said, the administration will make all arrangements to facilitate the servitors to pull the chariots. They will be provided with sanitizers, masks, napkins, vaccines, medicines, glucose, ORS, rest sheds and others during pulling of the chariots. He said selected few servitors will be allowed to be seated on the chariots when they are pulled. All COVID-19 protocol will be followed, he said.

Meanwhile, Dr.Kumar said, the servitors body has also agreed to allow the ASI to undertake laser scanning of the ‘Ratna Simhasan’ (the seat of the Lords) in the sanctum sanctorum and other places in the shrine when the deities are taken out for car festival.

“As the ASI does not have access to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple during the remaining period of the year, a comprehensive documentation of the Ratna Simhasan through laser scanning will be prepared during the absence of the deities on Rath Yatra,” ASI Assistant Superintendent Chitta Ranjan Das told reporters here Saturday.

Stating that the ASI has successfully prepared a similar documentation of the Sun Temple at Konark, Das said the objective of the documentation is to record the condition, geometry, carvings, sculptures and statues of the Ratna Simhasan. This will enable ASI to prepare a detailed drawing of the Ratna Simhasan for repairs, if necessary in future.

Meanwhile, ASI has already started the process to install lights in a sequence on the Shree Jagannath temple premises.  “The estimated cost of the lightning project is Rs 1.5 crore. It will be completed in three months,” Das said. 

This was stated by Puri district magistrate-cum collector Samarth Verma. He said thedistrict administration has revised its decision and imposed restrictions on public viewing of the upcoming Rath Yatra festival from rooftop of houses.

He said curfew will be clamped in the entire Puri town a day before Rath Yatra on July 12 and the restrictions will remain effective till the next day (afternoon).

Stating that the devoteeless Ratha Yatra is being organized for the second consecutive year due to COVID-19 pandemic, Verma said the people of Puri have been urged to witness the live telecast of the festival from their television sets as others.

Both the District Magistrate and SP K V Singh made a spot visit of the three-kilometer long grand road. There are 230 residential houses and 41 hotels and lodges on both sides of the grand road. The people may congregate on roof top to witness the festival. But the administration has put restrictions on this kind of viewing, Singh said.

  “As per the decision of the administration, rooftop gatherings will not be allowed as the activities are part of Section 144,” the SP said adding that the  hotels and lodges are directed not to take bookings from two days prior to Rath Yatra.

He said all roads leading to Puri will be sealed before the Ratha Yatra and people from across the state and country are requested not to visit the holy town as the government has announced to conduct a devotee less event. 

After holding a meeting with the Chhattisa Nijog (apex body of servitors),