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351 Jagannath Temple servitors test Covid +ve

Puri: At least 351 servitors and 53 employees of Shree Jagannath Temple here have tested positive for COVID-19, an official said. A total of 404 persons engaged in the 12th-century shrine have tested positive for the virus since August, said Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) administrator Ajay Jena said on Tuesday.

He said the Lord Jagannath's rituals, however, are continuing as usual despite the absence of so many servitors. The Jagannath temple is closed for devotees since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The official said as most of the servitors are in home isolation after testing positive and there is a shortage of knowledgeable people to perform rituals. At least a group of 13 priests each are required to perform rituals for the sibling deities — Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath. Therefore, the presence of 39 priests apart from other servitors are essential to perform daily rituals of the oldest Lord Vishnu Temple here, who is being worshipped since ages in the form of Lord Jagannath.

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