No 'Kanwar Yatra' in Odisha this year due to COVID-19 pandemic
Bubaneshwar, July 04: The Odisha government on Saturday announced a ban on "Kanwar Yatra" by devotees of Lord Shiva during Shravan month this year, amid the rising number of novel coronavirus cases in the state.
In view of the pandemic, the state government has decided not to allow ''Kanwariyas'' or ''Bol Bam'' devotees (disciples of Lord Shiva) to collect water from rivers, ponds and other water bodies and offer prayer at different Shiva temples on every Monday during Shravan month starting from July 6, Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) P K Jena said.
The Kanwar Yatra is an annual pilgrimage of Shiva''s followers to pilgrimage sites including the temples of Lord Lingaraj in Bhubaneswar and Dhabalwswar near Cuttack.
They travel on foot in groups for hundreds of kilometres chanting ''bol bam'', singing bhajans and dancing to bring holy water for the deity.
The annual Shravani mela (fair) at Baidyanath temple in Deogarh has also been denied permission this time on the order of Jharkhand High Court.
"In order to prevent congregation, Kanwariyas or Bol Bum devotees are not allowed to carry water from any source and walk on any public road in order to offer it to the deity at any temple during the month of Shravan this time," Jena said.
The SRC said the believers normally start collecting water from Saturday onwards and embark upon long journeys in groups to offer the holy water at Shiva shrines on Monday. He said the ban on the yatra is aimed at preventing public gathering.
According to the guidelines laid down by the state government, all the religious sites and places of worship, including temples, are shut in the state and devotees are not allowed to visit them till July 31, he said.
Similarly, all forms of religious, cultural, political and spiritual gatherings are not permitted in Odisha till the end of this month, Jena said.
Following the government''s decision, the people are requested to strictly adhere to the order and refrain from collecting water and undertaking travel to Shiva temples during Shravan this year as a precautionary measure, he said.
We believe that everyone will cooperate with the administration in this regard, he added.
Similarly, the district administrations are also required to take concrete steps to enforce the order and ensure that no ''Bol Bam yatra'' takes place this time, Jena said.
The government''s decision to prohibit the yatra comes as the public health crisis continues to mount alarmingly not only in the state but also across the country.
Odisha has so far reported 8,601 COVID-19 cases and 34 fatalities. As many as 1,536 novel coronavirus cases have been reported in the state since July 1 alone.