Context: The Supreme Court lifted its ban on the conduct of Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra after ensuring a complete lack of public attendance for the festival to avoid spread of infection amid a pandemic.

More about the news:

  • The court had stopped the yatra for this year to avoid public gathering and risk of infection. The festival is scheduled to begin from June 23.
  • The Centre made an urgent mention along with over a dozen other applicants seeking a recall of the injunction order.

About the judgment

  • A virtual court Bench led by Chief Justice of India ordered “strict curfew” in the city of Puri from Monday night (June 22) onwards till the entire duration of the festival. 
  • The SC took a note of the fact that the State of Orissa has a good record of having controlled the pandemic with a very little loss of life. 
  • SC conditions for conduct of Rath yatra:
    • Without public attendance: It said only “bare minimum number of people” would be allowed to participate in the rituals and Yatra.
    • The 11 conditions include that only those who have been tested COVID-19 negative would be allowed to pull the chariots and participate in the rituals associated with the festival. 
    • Chariot-pullers should maintain physical distancing. 
    • There should be a one-hour gap between two chariots.
    • Visual media would be allowed to install cameras at vantage points and cover the festival extensively for the benefit of viewers.
    • The State should maintain a record containing details of participants along with their medical test results.

About Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra

  • The holy festival is held in Odisha's Puri and marks the journey of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subadhra from their actual abode (the Puri Jagannath Temple) to the Gundicha temple.
  • The Rath Yatra happens to be a 15-day long festival.
  • The Rath Yatra involves three chariots - Lord Jagannath's Nandighosh, Lord Balabhadra's Taladwaja and Devi Subhadra's Darpadalan.

Significance and rituals:

  • Lord Jagannath (the Lord of the Universe derived from the Sanskrit words - Jagat meaning Universe and Nath meaning Lord) leaves his abode along with siblings Balbhadra and Subadhra for Gundicha Mata's Temple, a monument built in the memory of Queen Gundicha, wife of King Indradyumna .
  • As per belief, Goddess Lakshmi visits her consort Lord Jagannath on the fourth day and this day is referred to as the Hera Panchami.
  • After spending about a week at the Gundicha temple, the trio of Jagannath, Balbhadra and Subhadra return to the Jagannath temple. This ceremony is called Bahuda Yatra.
  • Devotees pull the three beautifully decorated giant chariots which carry the idols of the three main deities. The chariots have a distinct look and name.

About Shree Jagannath Temple of Puri 

  • It is an important Hindu temple dedicated to Jagannath, a form of Vishnu, in Puri in the state of Odisha on the eastern coast of India. 
  • The present temple was rebuilt by King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva, first of the Eastern Ganga dynasty.
  • The Puri temple is one of the Char Dham.