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COVID-19 threat forces Odisha temple to cancel festival

The Chaitra Jatra festival is celebrated at Tara Tarini hill shrine on Tuesdays of the Hindu month of Chaitra.

The Chaitra Jatra festival is celebrated at Tara Tarini hill shrine on Tuesdays of the Hindu month of Chaitra.  

Over 1.5 lakh devotees were expected for the Chaitra Jatra festival at Tara Tarini hill shrine on Tuesday

Severe restrictions in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic forced the cancellation of the famous Chaitra Jatra festival at Tara Tarini hill shrine in Odisha’s Ganjam district on Tuesday.

The foot hill as well as the temple at the hill top, that sees a congregation of around 1.5 lakh devotees for the festival, wore a deserted look throughout the day. Except for servitors and police personnel, no one was allowed to reach the hill top.

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Ganjam district administration and Tara Tarini Development Board (TTDB) decided to cancel the Chaitra Jatra as a precautionary measure. Since Monday, entry points of all major roads leading to the hill shrine had been blocked and police were deployed to turn back visitors. “Police and the administration also closed the stairway, ropeway and the ghat road that connects the foot hill to the hill top. Only the servitors were allowed to take the stairs to reach the temple,” said secretary of TTDB, Pramod Panda. All servitors wore masks.

Besides, restrictions under Section 144 of CrPC imposed by administration was strictly enforced at the hill shrine. No shops either in the vicinity of the hill shrine or by the side of the road leading to it were allowed to open.

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The temple was, however, decked up and servitors performed all the rituals according to schedule. The deity was ready in ‘Mahalaxmi Besha,’ but there were no devotees for the darshan. Large sheds had been erected for the ‘mundan ceremony,’ where thousands of children usually tonsure their heads as an offering to the deity. Around 500 barbers of the area, who make a tidy sum during the Chaitra Jatra, were in for a disappointment.

Servitors said they had never seen the temple deserted like this during the Chaitra Jatra. Senior servitor Tapan Rana said they accepted it as the need of the hour in these testing times.

According to the TTDB, over 1.5 lakh visitors were expected to arrive for the festival on Tuesday. Out of them, around 50,000 would have reached the hill top to offer puja to the deity, while the rest stayed back for the festival at the foothill.

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This festival is celebrated at Tara Tarini hill shrine on Tuesdays of the Hindu month of Chaitra. The largest gathering occurs on the second and third Tuesdays. “Similar restrictions will continue during the next three Tuesdays and we request devotees not to come to the hill shrine till the COVID-19 threat subsides,” said Mr. Panda.

Tara Tarini hill shrine, located at Kumari hill on the banks of Rushikulya river, is a major centre of Shakti worship in Odisha.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 1:30:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/covid-19-threat-forces-odisha-temple-to-cancel-festival/article31094806.ece

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