Rath Yatra 2021 will be a rather subdued celebration, with public events severely restricted amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The annual event marks the journey of Lord Jagannath and his two siblings from the 12th-century Jagannath Temple (in Odisha's Puri) to Gundicha Temple, their aunt's home, some 2.5 kilometres away. Nine days later, they will 'return' during what is also called Bahuda Yatra.
With the pandemic-induced restrictions dampening spirits, countless individuals have now taken to social media platforms to mark the occasion. Hashtags related to the Rath Yatra and the Jagannath Temple have now become the top trend on Twitter.
"Greetings to everyone on the special occasion of the Rath Yatra. We bow to Lord Jagannath and pray that his blessings bring good health and prosperity in everyone's lives. Jai Jagannath," tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"My warm greetings and best wishes to all the countrymen, especially all the devotees in Odisha, on the auspicious occasion of the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath. I wish that with the blessings of Lord Jagannath, the lives of all the countrymen remain full of happiness, prosperity and health," tweeted President Ram Nath Kovind from the Rashtrapati Bhavan handle.
Numerous others including Home Minister Amit Shah and Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan have also extended greetings on the occasion.
A two-day curfew has been imposed and a total of 65 platoons of police force have been deployed across Puri. The Odisha State Government had permitted the conducting of Rath Yatra only in the Jagannath temple, with strict COVID-19 restrictions and protocols. Servitors who have received vaccine shots and tested negative for COVID-19 will be allowed to attend rituals.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected a batch of petitions seeking direction to conduct Rath Yatra across Odisha and not only in Puri Jagannath temple, as permitted by the Odisha State Government in its order earlier.
(With inputs from agencies)