Watch video: Jagannath Rath Yatra begins in Odisha's Puri; IMA chief says holding any festival not advisable

Amid COVID-19, Rath Yatra, Odisha 's biggest annual festival, was celebrated without the congregation of devotees at Puri on Monday. The erstwhile king of Puri also took part in the Yatra rituals, reported news agency ANI.

Meanwhile, the pulling of the chariot Taladhwaja of Lord Balabhadra also began in Puri.

As the nine-day long festival, Rath Yatra began in Odisha from Monday, a two-day curfew has been imposed and a total of 65 platoons of police force have been deployed across the city, informed Narasingha Bhol, IGP Northern Range.

Speaking to ANI here on Sunday, Bhol said, "Ahead of Rath Yatra, curfew has been imposed from 8 pm, July 11 till 8 pm, July 13 in Puri. 65 Platoon have been deployed at different points. No devotees are permitted to attend the yatra."

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indian Medical Association President, Dr JA Jayalal has said that holding any festival is not advisable as it can be dangerous. "Holding any festival is not advisable as it can be dangerous. IMA requests the government to reconsider their decision regarding any kind of mass gatherings," Dr JA Jayalal told news agency ANI.

Earlier, Jagannath Temple Chief Administrator Krishan Kumar had on Sunday informed that all arrangements for the Rath Yatra were completed. He had said that raths have arrived at the Singh Dwar and further preparations were underway for the yatra.

He had mentioned that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had asked for permission for doing laser scanning of the Jagannath Temple ahead of the yatra. The annual Rath Yatra of Lord Shree Jagannath in Puri is being held this year and servitors who have received vaccine shots and have tested negative for COVID-19 will be allowed to attend rituals.

This will be the second year in a row when the devotees will not be allowed to attend the celebrations due to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Announcing the decision Odisha Special Relief Commissioner, Pradeep K Jena on Thursday said that the Supreme Court's guidelines, which were issued last year on conducting the Rath Yatra will be followed this year too.

However, the state government has restricted the Rath Yatra to other places in the state but the rituals will be allowed to perform in the temples without any gathering.

"Only selective people having 48 hrs RT-PCR negative report or those who have fully Vaccinated will be allowed to pull the chariots of the holy siblings and each Chariot will be pulled by not more than 500 persons, Similarly Only COVID-19 negative and fully Vaccinated Servitors will be allowed to perform the rituals," Ajaya Jena, Administrator of Puri Jagannath Temple, had said.

Similar criteria have also been followed by the police personal and officials will be deployed to conduct the Rath Yatra. The Supreme Court on July 22, 2020, modified its earlier order and allowed the annual Jagannath Rath Yatra in Odisha's Puri to be held with the coordination of the Temple committee, State and Central government without compromising with the health issue pertaining to COVID-19.

(With inputs from ANI and PTI)

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