One of the traditional servitors at the Puri Jagannath Temple in Odisha tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of the annual Rath Yatra, the district administration said on Tuesday. This came a day after the Supreme Court had directed that only those who test negative would be allowed to pull the chariots and participate in the rituals.
The Puri district administration said 1,143 servitors were tested for the coronavirus on Monday. “Except one, all are found negative,” a tweet said. “Confirm case has been shifted to Covid hospital before Rath Yatra rituals, contact tracing is being done and area has been contained.”
Usually attended by lakhs of devotees, this year’s procession was drastically scaled down because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court had lifted its June 18 ban on the Rath Yatra after ensuring a complete lack of public attendance for the festival to avoid spread of the infection. The court had added that the Jagannath Puri temple administration and the Odisha government, in consultation with the Centre, were entirely responsible for the safe conduct of the festival.
Pattajoshi Mohapatra, the chief servitor at the Puri Jagannath Temple, had moved the Supreme Court, saying that the procession was an “essential religious practice” protected by the Constitution of India and its cancellation would affect the holiness of the temple.
However, several videos and images from Puri showed priests standing very close together while carrying Lord Jagannath’s idol to the chariot, in clear violation of the physical distancing rule.