Puri: The Rath Yatra was held on Thursday with fanfare, religious fervour and enthusiasm as lakhs of devotees thronged the Bada Danda to witness the divine event, marking the beginning of the annual nine day sojourn of the Lord Jagannath and His two siblings. The chariot pulling started ahead of schedule.
Two months after cyclone Fani ravaged it along with other coastal districts, this pilgrim town was back on its feet today to celebrate the annual mega festival of the presiding deity of Odisha.
Devotees first pulled Lord Balabhadra’s Taladhwaj chariot at 2.15 pm though pulling of chariots was scheduled at 4 pm. Later devotees pulled the Darpadalan of Devi Subhadra and Nandighosa of Lord Jagannath amid spiritual fervour. The devotees will pull the chariots on the Bada Danda (Grand Road) till Gunduchia Temple, considered as Lord Jagannath’s aunt’s house, covering nearly 2.5 km distance.
Lakhs of devotees from across the country and abroad descended on the pilgrim town for the world famous annual festival of chariots to catch glimpse of the presiding deities of the 12th century Shree Jagannath shrine.
Before the sibling deities – Lord Jagannath, His elder brother Lord Balabhadra and their sister Devi Subhadra – set out from sanctum sanctorum of the temple earlier this morning, a number of special rituals like Mangla Arati and Mailam were conducted.
The three deities were taken out of the temple through the Singhadwar (Lion’s Gate) in ceremonial Pahandi procession by Daitapati servitors as devotees and priests jostled to have a glimpse.
At first Sudarshana, the celestial wheel of Lord Jagannath, was taken out at 8.45 am and placed in the chariot of Devi Subhadra followed by Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and finally Lord Jagannath, the centre of attraction.
After the deities were installed in the chariots, Puri Govardhana Peeth Shankaracharya, Swami Nischalananda Saraswati had darshan of the deities on the chariots along with his disciples. Thereafter, the Gajapati King of Puri Dibyasingh Deb proceeded to the chariots to in his royal palanquin Tamjan to perform the Chhera Panhara (Sweeping of chariot floors) ritual with the ceremonial golden broom.
The Chhera Panhara ritual is considered one of the most important rituals performed during the annual Rath Yatra.
Governor Ganeshi Lal, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and other senior leaders cutting across party lines converged in the Bada Dana to witness the annual sojourn of the deities. Elaborate security arrangements have been made in Puri for the smooth conduct of the divine event.