Puri Rath Yatra: 8 carpenters test COVID-19 positive, making of chariots on

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Puri, May 20 (PTI) Shree Jagannath Temple Administration Thursday said construction work on the chariots of the three deities of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra, and sister Subhadra, for the annual Rath Yatra in the pilgrim town here is going on as per schedule even as eight carpenters engaged in the task have tested COVID-19 positive.

SJTA chief administration Krishan Kumar said of the 88 servitors imvolved in the construction of the chariots, three servitors of Maharana community and five sevayats belonging to the Bhoi community have been infected with the virus, and are undergoing treatment at a facility here.

The progress of chariot-making for the annual Rath Yatra on July 12 is going on as per schedule, Kumar said.

The festival marks the annual journey of the three deities from the Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple. The festival ends after nine days when the deities return to the Jagannath Temple.

'Only those servitors, who have tested negative, are being allowed to work in the 'Rath Khala' (construction yard) to make the chariots,' he said.

The SJTA has decided to make the 'Rath Khela' a bio- bubble, Kumar said.

A bio-bubble is a safe and secure environment isolated from the outside world to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19, he said.

There will be a restriction on the entry of people into the 'Ratha Khala' area.

The workers are being kept in isolation and given separate accomodation till the work is completed, the SJTA chief administrator said.

'They are not allowed to visit their families or none from their families can come to meet them. They are kept in complete isolation to protect them from the infection.

'All of them use face masks and sanitizers. They will soon be provided with N-95 masks. Social distancing is also maintained as far as possible,' Kumar said.

Of the three Maharana servitors who tested positive for COVID-19 two were in charge of the construction of Lord Jagannaths 'Nandighosh' chariot and one was working on the 'Darpadalan' chariot of Devi Subhadra, said SJTA administrator (development), Ajay Jena.

In the second wave of the Covid pandemic, two servitors and two of their family members have succumbed to the infection so far, Jena said.

The SJTA has made provisions for testing and treatment of all the servitors on chariot construction duties, and for those conducting rituals at the 12th-century shrine.

The Lords annual Chandan Yatra (sandalwood festival) is also going on by following COVID-19 safety norms, he said. PTI COR AAM MM MM