The annual Jagannath Rath Yatra in Odisha’s Puri city began on Tuesday. Usually attended by lakhs of devotees, this year’s procession was drastically scaled down because of the coronavirus pandemic. The chariot pulling ritual will be done by not more than 500 people this year.

In an order on June 18, the Supreme Court had forbidden the annual ritual. “Lord Jagannath will not forgive us if we allow this,” Chief Justice of India SA Bobde had said. In a hearing on Monday, however, the top court allowed Odisha to conduct the ritual in a restricted manner.

The Odisha government has imposed a complete shutdown in Puri from 8 pm on Monday till 2 pm on Wednesday. The government will also conduct coronavirus tests on priests pulling the chariot. There will also be an interval of one hour between the pulling of three chariots.

The Jagannath Temple was sanitised before the yatra began.

However, several videos from Puri showed priests standing very close together while carrying Lord Jagannath’s idol to the chariot.

Gajapati Maharaj Dibyasingha Deb, the king of Puri, swept the chariot using a broom with a gold handle, as part of the ‘Chhera Pahanra’ ritual, during the ritual.

Devotees worship Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra at the famed temple in Puri. The deities’ idols are brought out on the city’s streets every year on the second day of the third Hindu month Asadha in three massive chariots. The procession lasts seven days.

Celebrations in other states

In Ahmedabad, the Rath Yatra took place only inside the premises of the Shree Jagannathji Temple. Devotees were seen wearing protective masks but stood very close together. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also attend the ritual. The Gujarat High Court, in an order passed at 2 am on Tuesday, refused to review its decision to not allow the Jagannath Rath Yatra to take place in the city amid rising coronavirus cases. In Kolkata too, the ritual was held inside a temple.