Bhubaneswar: With the Odisha government allowing the reopening of religious institutions with appropriate COVID restrictions from Sunday (August 1) as part of its Unlock process, all eyes are now set on the August 4 meeting of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) when the body will decide on the reopening of the 12th-century shrine in Puri.

SJTA chief administrator Krishan Kumar has convened the virtual meeting to decide on allowing the devotees into the Jagannath temple, a senior official said.

Puri’s magistrate-cum-collector, superintendent of police, chief district medical officer, besides members of the temple coordination committee will attend the meeting to take stock of the COVID situation and decide when to open the shrine for devotees, who were denied an opportunity to attend the Ratha Jatra in July, he said.

The state government, in its guideline for August, has categorically stated that SJTA, Puri, and the Shree Lingaraj Temple Administration, Bhubaneswar may decide on reopening of temples under their management for the public darshan in consultation with stakeholders concerned and in compliance with COVID-19 safety protocols.

The notification said that places of worship across the state will be opened based on an assessment of the local situation by district authorities. However, no prasad will be offered by the devotees.

The Jagannath temple remains out of bounds for devotees for around 100 days due to a spike in COVID cases. They were even prevented from attending the Ratha Jatra on July 12, as shutdown and curfew were imposed in the pilgrim town.

In the wake of the second wave of the COVID pandemic, the SJTA had on April 24 prohibited the entry of devotees to the shrine even as all daily rituals were performed by servitors and other temple staff.

(With agency inputs)

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