Manipur skips annual Rath Yatra procession due to unrest

Imphal, June 20 (IANS) Manipur on Tuesday skipped the annual Rath Yatra procession with chariots, which has been a public festival for 200 years, in view of the ongoing ethnic violence, which has so far claimed more than 120 lives and left more than 60,000 people displaced since it first broke out on May 3.

The Shree Shree Govindaji Temple Board, Manipur's apex body that holds the annual Rath Yatra locally known as Kang Chingba, decided against holding any public event, while rituals will take place only inside temple premises across the state.

Various religious organisations, including Brahma Sabha and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also decided not to hold any public procession due to the prevailing situation.

On the occasion of the Rath Yatra, the idols of Lord Jagannath and his two siblings -- Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra -- are taken out of Shree Shree Govindaji Temple at the palace compound in Imphal and place them on a wooden nearly 30-foot tall chariot, which is then pulled by hundreds of devotees for a ceremonial procession.

In 1780, the celebration has first commenced at the royal palace during the rule of Maharaja Bhagyachandra and it became a public annual carnival in 1832 during the reign of Maharaja Gambhir Singh (who ruled the erstwhile princely state from 1825 to 1834) after the Shree Shree Govindaji temple was built.

On the occasion, Manipur Governor Anusuiya Uikey greeted the people.

She said that for the Hindu Meiteis, the festival is celebrated with gaiety on the second day of the fourth lunar month of the Manipuri calendar Engen which falls in late June or early July and lasts for 10 days till Kanglen celebrating Lord Jagannath's journey.

"For many, Kang is a symbol of unity, brotherhood, and peace. Thousands of devotees participate in this yatra and get good fortune by pulling the Lord Jagannath's chariot and be blessed with pleasure and riches.Let this year's Rath Yatra bring everlasting unity, peace and progress for every household in the state," the Governor said in her message.