Karnataka: Chariot Pulling Ritual Held in Violation of Lockdown, Police Register Case

The Kalaburagi district, where the ritual was held, reported the first COVID-19 death in the country and has been declared a 'hotspot'.

New Delhi: A chariot pulling ritual in the Kalaburagi district of Karnataka on Thursday saw the participation of many devotees who violating the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Kalaburagi has been deemed a COVID-19 hotspot and reported the first death in the country.

According to reports, the gathering was part of the Siddalingeshwara fair that is associated with a chariot festival held in Chittapur village. A video tweeted out by Anusha Ravi Sood, a journalist for the New Indian Express, show devotees violating not just the lockdown but also social distancing norms. While there are many pulling the five-storey chariot along the road, a large crowd can also be seen walking alongside the chariot, as part of a procession.

Chittapur’s tehsildar accused the temple’s management of ‘misguiding’ the local administration.

Sood added that the chariot festival was held on Thursday morning despite both district officials and temple trust members “agreeing not to go ahead with the event”. She said the village is just 4 kilometres from the Wadi town which has been sealed off.

Initial reports suggested that despite the huge turnout, the police nor the district administration intervened. After the videos caused a storm on Twitter, the district police registered a case against the temple trust.

According to The News Minute, the state government’s information department said the deputy commissioner of the district has been apprised of the situation and assured that necessary action will be taken. The department said permission had not been given for the ritual.

According to the New Indian Express, Chittapur tahsildar Umakant Halle said the Siddalingeshwara Trust, which runs the temple, had “misguided” the taluk administration. As per custom, a day prior to the procession, the temple conducts a Pallaki Seva ritual – where an idol is carried in a palanquin. The administration had asked the temple to hold this ritual symbolically, with priests and trust members present, and not to have a chariot pulling event.

“The chariot pulling was to take place on Thursday evening and the Siddalingeshwara Trust agreed to cancel it. But without informing the taluk administration, the chariot was pulled on Thursday morning at 5 am in the presence of many devotees,” the newspaper reported.

The tahsildar said the local police have been directed to file an FIR against the Siddalingeswara Trust management and the devotees who pulled the chariot.

According to the Union health ministry, Kalaburagi has one of the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Karnataka. As of Thursday, the district has 20 cases, the fourth highest among all districts. There have been three deaths in the district, the highest among all districts in Karnataka. According to reports, 14 of the 20 patients who have been identified are under treatment.

As of Friday morning, Karnataka has has identified 315 cases of COVID-19. While 82 have been cured or discharged from hospitals, 13 people have died of the viral infection.