Coronavirus: India's Rath Yatra canceled, decision met with some backlash

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India’s Supreme Court on Thursday decided that one of the country's largest Hindu festivals will not be held this year as the state seeks to slow the spread of coronavirus, and the decision was met with backlash by some Twitter users.

The decision to cancel Rath Yatra festivities, set to begin June 23 at Jagannath Temple of Puri in the state of Odisha, was the subject of debate among Twitter users as some Indians felt the court made the correct decision to protect lives, while others argued that the “Hindu spiritual power of Lord Jagannath will prevail.”

Large events have been canceled across the globe as health experts have warned that the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading among large groups is high.

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The yatra involves pulling the chariot of Lord Jagannath as he comes out of his temple, and worshippers gather to help pull the chariot along, the Hindustan Times reported. Maintaining social distancing during the chariot pull would be impossible.

“We have enough experience to know that if we allow any religious activity then there will be a gathering...Lord Jagannath will forgive us,” Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde said, the Hindustan Times reported.

Temples across the state have been closed since March 22 to stem the spread of coronavirus, and individual temples across various districts have said they will not hold the festival this year.

Held annually, Rath Yatra was not held 32 times between 1568 and 1735 due to attacks on the Jagannath temple, local OdishaBytes reported.

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