India allows religious festival amidst coronavirus pandemic

Rath Yatra festival
The festival lasts more than a week and celebrates the Indian deity of Jagannath.

Hundreds of worshippers are expected to take part in India’s most celebrated religious processions on Tuesday. India’s highest court made an announcement to allow the religious processions to take place in limited capacity despite the surge in coronavirus cases.

The Rath Yatra festival takes place annually in different cities around the country. However, it is mostly celebrated in the city of Puri, in the western state, Odisha. The festival lasts more than a week and celebrates the Indian deity of Jagannath.

The highest court had previously cancelled the Hindu festival due to the risk of transmission of the coronavirus with more than a million attendees in Odisha.Read More– Can China afford India as an enemy?

The Supreme Court overturned the decision on Monday after the Odisha state government promised to operate the festival in a “limited way”.

During the festival, three lavishly decorated carriages are pulled through the streets while participants walk alongside. The carriages are almost 45-feet-high, made of wood, decorated with red and gold cloth, and carry the priests through the city.

Many people from other cities attend the festival in Odisha to dance, sing, pray, and play music. In an attempt to limit the spread of the virus, only essential people will be taking part in the festival. Around 500 people will be allowed to pull each carriage with a total of 1500 people for all three carts. 

The court has asked the government to lock down the entry to the city in order to impose a curfew on the city.

The Union Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted to thank the court for allowing the religious procession to take place. 

He said, “It makes me, as well as crores of devotees across India happy that (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) not only understood the sentiment of the devotees but also initiated consultations which ensured that the great traditions of our land are observed,” Shah tweeted. “Congratulations to the people of Odisha.”

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The court order came at a time where India is struggling to control the spread of the coronavirus. The country has been seeing more than 12,000 cases daily for six days straight. India has recorded a total of 440,215 cases.

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