The chief servitor of the Jagannath Temple in Puri has moved the Supreme Court asking it to recall its order refusing permission for this year’s Rath Yatra scheduled to begin on June 23. Pattajoshi Mohapatra said the annual procession, attended by lakhs, is an “essential religious practice” protected by the Constitution, and that non-observance of the same “affects the very sanctity” of the shrine.
Acting on a plea by an Odisha-based NGO, the top court had on June 18 refused to grant permission to hold the festival, citing the Covid-19 pandemic.
In his plea on Saturday, Mohapatra claimed that the yatra had been held even during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1919.
“Unlike the Rath Yatras of other Deities of other Temples elsewhere where only the Utsava Murtis are taken out of the Temple, in the case of the Shri Jagannatha Mandir the main Deities i.e., Jagannatha, Balabhadra & Subhadra themselves move out of the Mandir and therefore this Rath Yatra is unique and has an unbroken tradition. It is humbly reiterated that this ritual is not a mere celebratory festivity for public consumption, but is a mandatory and essential part of the Temple’s religious practice, which the Temple or its administrators are religiously mandated to observe and perform under any and all circumstances”, the plea said.
Mohapatra, who is also the head of the Nijoga—the association of Sevaks/Sevayats recognized by the Temple Managing Committee under the Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1955—claimed the practice “has been recorded in the Skanda Purana and the Niladri Mahodaya, which attest to the validity and significance of the Rath Yatra”.
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