Rath Yatra rituals begin in Puri, servitors in masks cradle deities to chariots

Only 500 people who test negative for COVID-19 will be allowed to pull one chariot; curfew imposed in Puri district

The Grand Road of Puri bedecked for the annual festival. Photo: Naveen Patnaik/Twitter

Clangs of cymbals and gongs reverberated in the air as the three deities of Puri Srimandir were ushered to their bedecked chariots as part of the ceremonial Pahandi ritual of Rath Yatra on Tuesday (June 23), a day after the Supreme Court allowed its conduct with restrictions.

Temple servitors wearing masks were seen cradling the deities from the temple to the chariots. The usually bustling Badadanda (Grand Road), which witnesses a huge gathering of devotees on Rath Yatra day every year, however, wore a rather deserted look with only select people including servitors, police, medical professionals and the media allowed in the precincts of the three chariots. A curfew-like shutdown has been imposed in the entire Puri district, to avoid any public congregation.

Pictures on Twitter showed workers sanitizing the area where the chariots stand.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to convey his greetings on the occasion of Rath Yatra.

In deference to the Supreme Court orders, the state government has said that only 500 people including servitors and security personnel will be allowed to pull one chariot.

The festival involves three chariots – Lord Jagannath’s Nandighosha, Lord Balabhadra’s Taladhwaja and Devi Subhadra’s Darpadalan. It would thereby need 1,500 people to pull all the three chariots to the nearby Gundicha Temple, believed to be the abode of the triad’s aunt.

On Monday, the government decided to collect swab samples of 1,500 people and get them examined by 11 am on Tuesday ahead of the chariot pulling at 12 noon.

Earlier, the state health and family welfare department had conducted COVID-19 test of 956 people including servitors and carpenters engaged in chariot construction.

Related news: Curfew-like shutdown imposed in Puri ahead of Rath Yatra

As per reports, the servitors who participated in the Pahandi rituals were among the ones who tested negative for the virus.

Chief administrator of Sri Jagannath Temple Trust Krishan Kumar had said on Monday that only 10 servitors will be allowed atop each chariot.

Wishing everyone on the occasion of Rath Yatra, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in a video message on Monday urged fellow Odias to strike a balance between tradition and public health amid the pandemic.

The festival is being live-streamed on YouTube by the Odisha government.