BHUBANESWAR: Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, along with priests of the Jagannath temple, on Friday insisted that the Supreme Court should "reconsider" its decision to stay the Rath Yatra, and allow servitors to observe the festival with precautions in place.
Maintaining that the apex court had rightly halted the 'Mage Parab', amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the decision to stall the Rath Yatra, however, could be re-evaluated, "allowing only a handful of servitors to conduct the ceremony".
"Devotees, this year, can witness the rituals on television," he stated.
The nine-day festival is usually marked by a procession of chariots, in which three deities- Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra -- emabark on an annual journey to Gundicha temple and back.
The Shankaracharya of Govardhan Peeth in Puri is the religious head, whose views and opinions on disputes are accepted by one and all in the 12th century shrine.
Chattisa Nijog, the apex body of servitors of the Shree Jagannath Temple, has also urged the state government to approach the Supreme Court for reassessment of the verdict.
"It seems that the Supreme Court was not properly apprised of the preparations made by temple administration and the Odisha government for the June 23 Rath Yatra," Chattisa Nijog said in a letter to chief minister Naveen Patnaik.
The cancellation of the annual car festival will adversely affect all future rituals, offerings and festivals, the servitors claimed.
"The Centre had allowed chariot construction for the festival, and accordingly all arrangements were made, with carpenters and servitors made to undergo health screening from time to time. With just four days to go before the festival, the state government should immediately move the apex court seeking a modification of its order," the Nijog added.
The apex court had on Thursday stayed Rath Yatra, which was scheduled to begin on June 23, and all activities related to the festival, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shortly after, the Odisha cabinet, during an emergency meeting, passed a resolution, asking Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee (SJTMC) to carry out rituals inside the Puri shrine, in accordance with the direction of the court.
A crucial meeting of the Jagannath temple management committee is set to be held here on Friday to discuss the possibility of performing all Rath Yatra rituals on the premises of the 12th century shrine, after carefully studying the decision of the state cabinet, and the apex court directions, SJTMC member Ramachandra Dasmohapatra said.
After the meeting, a delegation is expected to meet Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalanand Saraswati to seek a final advice on the matter, he said.
Meanwhile, two organisations -- Srijagannath Sena and Srikshetra Suraksha Bahini - have called for a dawn-to-dusk shutdown in Puri on Friday in protest against the cancellation of this year's Rath Yatra.
Members of the two outfits also staged protests in the town, claiming that the state government did nothing to facilitate the annual car festival.
The apex court had issued its order on Thursday, based on a PIL filed by an Odisha-based NGO seeking cancellation or postponement of this year's Ratha yatra, which is attended by millions of devotees from across the world.