Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra 23 June, 2020: The annual Rath Yatra that is held in Puri, Odisha every year is finally underway after the Supreme Court agreed to let it take place with certain restrictions. The 10-day festival, which began Tuesday, usually sees a huge number of devotees thronging the place, but because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there are strict rules in place. Also Read - Puri Rath Yatra Latest News: Supreme Court Allows Rath Yatra to be Conducted But With Restrictions

The Rath Yatra or Chariot Festival that is held in Puri is very famous and is known as the Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra. It is a Hindu festival held in the months of June or July and has become popular not only in India but the world over. It is an event that commemorates the annual visit of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra to Gundicha Temple via Mausi Maa Temple. Also Read - Rath Yatra 2020: All You Need to Know About The Chariot Festival Associated With Lord Jagannath

This year devotees will not be allowed to gather at the temple or to help pull the chariots due to social distancing rules. The apex court has clearly stated that only people testing negative for COVID-19 will be allowed to pull the chariots, and the news will come as a huge disappointment for many.

While it is being decided who gets to take part and who doesn’t, lets take a look at how the Jagannath Rath Yatra came about.

First of all, there are two versions of how the Yatra started, with one speaking of Indrayumna, King of Puri, trying to steal the heart of Krishna. Lord Krishna is believed to have been immersed in the legendary Dwarka sea after his cremation, and he reappeared to the tribal people living there as an idol. Indrayumna tried to claim the idol for himself but it disappeared. The king grew repentant and sought forgiveness from Krishna by worshipping him in another form.

The other legend is that struck by grief, Krishna’s siblings, elder brother Balabhadra and younger sister Subhadra, walked into the Dwarka sea carrying his half-cremated body. In the same moment, in another part of India, King Indrayumna had a dream that Krishna’s body had floated to his shores as a log and that he should build statues of Krishna, Balabhadra and Subhadra.

The two stories merge together at this point with King Indrayumna deciding to build a temple to house the statue after his dream came true. He began to look for a good carpenter who can carve the statues out of wood, and that was when Vishwakarma, who is believed to be God’’s architect, showed up as an old carpenter. Vishwakarma agreed to take on the job but with one condition, and that is, if anybody should interrupt his work, he would vanish immediately.

King Indrayumna agreed but after weeks of not seeing Vishwakarma come out for food, water or rest, he grew impatient and threw the doors wide open, and as he had warned, Vishwakarma vanished. Not to be deterred, King Indrayumna blessed the half-finished idols and put the ashes of Krishna in one of them and placed all three statues in the temple.

The difference with these statues is that unlike the carefully crafted metal idols one sees everywhere, they were made from wood, cloth and resin. Whenever they disintegrated, the statues were remade with new wood every 12 years.

And that is how the statues of Krishna, Balabhadra and Subhadra came to be in Puri, Odisha.