Puri: There were speculations that the state government may cancel the annual Rath Yatra altogether or it may bar the devotees from witnessing the festival on the Grand Road (Badadanda) in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
As per Srimandir records, the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath and his siblings Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra had been cancelled many times in the past due to attack from hostile elements on the 12th century shrine.
Srimandir was attacked 18 times in the past and the presiding deities were taken out of the temple 22 times during such aggressions. The deities were kept outside Srimandir for altogether 164 years and four months. Besides, the annual Rath Yatra of the deities could not be organised for 155 years.
As per documents, the annual mega event had been organised eight times outside Puri city and once inside Srimandir.
According to heritage expert Surendra Kumar Mishra, the Srimandir deities were taken to Sonepur through Mahanadi when Raktabahu attacked the shrine between 670 and 675. The deities were worshipped in isolation near Chhalia hills for 45 years. There was no scope to organise the Rath Yatra then.
“The deities were kept hidden there for 99 years. So, the Rath Yatra could not be organised for 144 years,” Mishra said.
In 1509, Srimandir deities were secretly taken to a cave at Chaddheiguha hill inside Chilika lake. Similarly, the deities were hidden at Kapileswarpur near Puri during the attack of Mirza Khuroom in 1601.
Lord Jagannath and his siblings were taken out of Srimandir and worshipped at Gadakhurda Gopal temple during the attack of Hasim Khan in 1607. Moreover, the deities were hidden at Gurubai Gada of Chilika in the wake of Kalyanmalla-II’s attack on Srimandir in 1612.
In 1617, the deities were kept at Gabapadar near Banpur for a year during the attack of Maqrum Khan. Similarly, the deities were worshipped at Nairi near Banpur for four months and at Chikilli in Ganjam for two years during Taki Khan’s attack in 1731.
Besides, the deities were hidden somewhere near Hatibari hills at Athagarh in Ganjam for two years and two months in the wake of Taki Khan-II’s attack on Srimandir in 1733. “There was no proof to claim that the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath was organised during this turbulent period,” Mishra said.