On Monday, the Supreme Court lifted the ban on Puri’s annual Rath Yatra festival, giving much relief to lakhs of devotees across the world. The yatra finally began on Tuesday.
The SC, in its order, explained the reasons for the lift. The main one was the congregation of devotees, for which the SC observed that if that can be avoided, there is no reason why the Yatra cannot be conducted.
They also included a string of guidelines, like closure of all entry points in and out of Puri, curfew for all nine days, coronavirus testing and not more than 500 persons to conduct the yatra.
However, the most important element that will determine the success of the yatra this year, will be social distancing and wearing of masks.
Religion and sentiments have always played a pivotal role in India’s societal map. While an age old tradition cannot be done away with, certain criteria, especially in the current exigency, become imperative to follow.
Tracking so many people with varied contact history, can pose to be a nightmare for the administration. Even the bench referred to an 18th-19th century incident, when the yatra was responsible for the spread of cholera and plague.
With India’s vast religious calendar, other states and religious congregations will be looking at the SC with similar approvals. In the end, it will be our own responsibility towards taking precautions and weighing emotions over facts, that can help India handle the growing COVID numbers.