‘Curfew-like’ shutdown imposed in Puri for Rath Yatra

The shutdown will be in force in Puri from 9 pm on Monday till 2 pm on Wednesday, said an official

Rath Yatra
In a late night judgment, the high court refused to change its earlier order which stayed the yatra, and asked the temple to go for a symbolic procession inside its premises. | PTI Photo

Soon after the Supreme Court allowed the historic Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra in Puri, the Odisha government on Monday (June 22) imposed a “curfew-like” shutdown in the district and appealed to people to stay indoors when the chariots roll out on the road on June 23.

Meanwhile, with only a day left for the festival, the government activated its administrative machinery for smooth conduct of the annual festival, and sent Chief Secretary AK Tripathy, Director General of Police (DGP) Abhay, and other officials to Puri to make the necessary arrangements.

The “curfew-like” shutdown will be in force across the district from 9 pm on Monday till 2 pm on Wednesday, said DGP Abhay and appealed to the people to abide by the Supreme Court’s directives while celebrating the historic Rath Yatra amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

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He also said that more than 50 platoons (one platoon has 30 personnel) of police force are being deployed for security management of the nine-day festival. “We have already started deployment of force since Sunday evening expecting to hold the Rath Yatra,” Abhay added.

While the Puri residents should refrain from moving out to watch the Lord’s journey, people from other parts of Odisha have been urged not to proceed to the seaside pilgrim town, the DGP said. “All devotees, both in Puri and outside, can watch it on television,” he said.

Meanwhile, all entry points to Puri have been sealed and no vehicle other than those for the purpose of the Rath Yatra preparation is allowed into the temple town, a senior official said.

The Puri district also administration held a preparatory meeting for the historic event and different departments were directed to keep their apparatus ready for the festival.

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“All the departments like health, police, drinking water, energy, sanitation and local municipality are ready,” Puri District Collector Balwant Singh said as he appealed to
the people to cooperate with the administration and maintain discipline during the festival.

The chief administrator of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration, Krishna Kumar, said that all the departments are well prepared as they are ready with their micro-planning. The priests of the 12th century shrine performed the ritualistic ‘Agyan Mala Bije’ (a token garland signifying permission of the deity for the festival) for the three chariots.

Senior servitors of the temple carried the ‘Agyan Mala’ from the sanctum sanctorum of the temple and went in a procession to the three gigantic chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra and performed puja. According to the tradition, the three chariots will be pulled only after getting ‘Agyan Mala’ from the Lord.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) core committee, headed by NC Pal, also inspected the three wooden chariots and verified that they are safe to be pulled.

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The Puri municipal authorities have asked all street vendors to vacate the Grand Road (Bada Danda) by Monday evening so that chariots can be pulled on Tuesday. “We have no objection to vacating the place. The shopkeepers are happy that the chariots will roll on the Grand Road,” said a shopkeeper.

Police said it had received a report saying that eggs were hurled at the house of Odisha Vikash Parishad president Sushanta Padhi, who had moved the Supreme Court to stall the Rath Yatra at Puri. Padhi’s car was also damaged in stone pelting by angry people who also raised slogans against him prompting lathicharge by police to disperse the crowd.

Forces were deployed near his house at Bomikhal in Bhubaneswar. Police said that CCTV footage is being checked to identify the attackers.

The apex court, while disposing Padhi’s petition, had on June 18 issued an interim order putting a stay on the conduct of the Ratha Yatra at Puri and elsewhere in the state. The petition had pointed out that there was a risk to public health if the Ratha Yatra was allowed to be held.

(With inputs from agencies)