Visakhapatnam: For the first time in 190-year-old history, the annual Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra of Lord Sri Jagannath Swamy Temple at Town Kotharoad area in Vizag city will be celebrated without the pulling of the chariot, troupes and a massive crowd of devotees.

The decision has been taken in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Usually, the endowment department organizes the ‘ Rathyatra’ (Chariot Festival) every year in Vizag city in a grand manner. On the day of the festival, temple authorities carry the deities— Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Devi Subhadra— in a chariot. Thousands of people used to join in the procession.

“The Rath Yatra is scheduled to be held on June 23. However this year, the festival will be celebrated within the temple premises,” said Jagannadhaacharyulu P, the chief priest of the temple.

Earlier, the Covid-19 pandemic dampened the Holi celebrations, Ugadi and Sri Ram Navami festivals. Rath Yatra is the biggest and historical festival in Vizag city where people celebrate on the lines of Puri temple in Odisha.

The temple authorities said that Lord Sri Jagannath Swamy Temple’s surrounding areas now fall under containment zones. “Hence, we will celebrate the festival within the temple’s premises. The deities will be placed on a chariot and few devotees will be allowed dharshan,” they added.

The Utkal Sanskrutika Samaj in Vizag city, a socio-cultural organization of people from Odisha state, also decided to skip the procession this year due to COVID-19. JK Nayak, president of the organization said that the deities will be taken out from the sanctum sanctorum in a chariot and will be brought back on a ninth day.

The number of Covid-19 cases has been increasing in Vizag city for the past one week. The tally has shot up to 302. They including 166 active cases. One person has died of Covid-19 .

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