For the first time in over 300 years, the three chariots of Lord Jagannath and his siblings were not taken out of the Jagannathpur temple here on the occasion of Rath Yatra on Tuesday due to the coronavirus-induced restrictions, a shrine official said.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said he sought "forgiveness" from the deities for not being able to perform the annual ritual this year.
The nine-day Rath Yatra is marked by a procession of the chariots, in which the three deities -- Lord Jagannath, Bhagwan Balaram and Devi Subhadra -- embark on an annual journey to their maternal aunt's place and back.
"It is the first time in the shrine's 329-year-long history that the chariots did not roll out on the streets of Ranchi to head to 'maushi ma bari' (maternal aunt's home), which is around a kilometre away, on the occasion of the Rath Yatra," said Manoj Tiwari, manager of the 17th century Jagannathpur temple.
The idols of the three deities were taken out of the sanctum sanctorum at 6 am, and placed on 'dol mandap' on the premises of the temple, where rituals were performed and offerings made, he said. They will be placed back in the sanctum sanctorum on July 1 during the return car festival, he added.
Soren said the decision to suspend all celebrations on the occasion of the Rath Yatra was taken keeping in mind the safety of the people.
"People have been participating in the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath every year. But this year, the Rath Yatra programme could not be held, so I bowed before him and sought forgiveness," he told reporters after offering prayers at the temple.
"The world is in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The decision to suspend the age-old Rath Yatra programme this year had to be taken with a heavy heart," he said.
The chief minister said he prayed for victory over the pandemic.
The Jagannathpur temple was constructed atop a hill in Ranchi's Dhurva area in 1691 by Badkagardh Nagavanshi Raja Thakur Ani Nath Shahdeo, and the first chariot had rolled the very next year. Since then till 2019, according to Jagannathpur temple manager Tiwari, the Rath Yatra rituals had been performed without any interruption.