Rath Yatra 2020: When Millions Of Lives Are At Stake, The Choice Is Simple

To say that this year has been full of surprises would be an understatement. Since the beginning of the new decade, mankind has witnessed many unprecedented challenges and unfortunate events. And so has the state of Odisha. After lengthy discussions with all concerned parties, the Supreme Court yesterday announced that it will not allow the Puri Rath Yatra to be held this year, keeping in mind the safety of lakhs of devotees. Although this comes as a shock for millions of Odias, it is probably for the best.

There’s a common saying among all of Lord Jagannath’s devotees – that one pays a visit to the holy temple in Puri when he/she is truly summoned by the Lord. And hence, who are we to challenge the Lord’s will. At a time when the world is battling with the worst pandemic of the century, the priority has to be to protect the lives of the common people. To allow a ritual that involves millions of devotees gather together would be suicidal.

Since the last couple of weeks, India has been making fresh highs in terms of the daily number of COVID-19 positive cases – with 13,586 cases reported yesterday. In Odisha, more than 4600 people have been infected with fears of community transmission looming in areas of Ganjam, Khurda, and Sundergarh. Experts suggest that the nation is yet to see the worst and we might hit the peak between July-September. In such a situation, it is imperative that the government takes all necessary steps to contain the spread of the virus and lessen the burden on an already stretched healthcare system.

The Rath Yatra has been a legacy and will continue to be so. It is performed every year with utmost dedication and fervour, especially in Odisha. In retrospect, the year 2020 will just prove to be a pause for the grand celebration and not a permanent halt. Once we put the pandemic behind us, the celebrations will have a new meaning as the world resumes normalcy. After all, people’s safety and happiness is all that Lord Jagannath wants. While giving his verdict, Chief Justice SA Bobde rightly said, “Lord Jagannath will not forgive us if we allowed the Rath Yatra”.

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