Puri, July 1: Lakhs of devotees thronged the pilgrim city to catch a glimpse of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra as they embarked on their journey to Gundicha Temple on the occasion of Rath Yatra on Friday.
This year’s annual festival assumes significance given that the last two years it was held without public participation amid curbs and curfew owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All rituals related to the Rath Yatra, starting from Pahandi Bije of the three deities, to Chhera Panhara by Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb completed much before the scheduled time.
Adorned with tahias (giant floral crowns), the sibling deities along with Lord Sudarsan were brought out of the sanctum sanctorum in Dhadi Pahandi to their chariots parked in front of the Singha Dwar, amid chants of Hari Bol and Jai Jagannath.
Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati accompanied by his disciples and servitors offered prayers to the deities on their respective chariots.
Following this ritual, Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb arrived in his royal palanquin ‘Tamjan’ and performed the Chhera Panhara (Ceremonial sweeping) of the chariots with a golden broom, amid chanting of hymns by the priests.
The pulling of chariots started at around 12.38 PM, much ahead of the scheduled time of 4 PM, and all three deities reached Saradhabali in front of the Gundicha Temple by evening.
Governor Ganeshi Lal, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Chief Justice of Orissa High Court Justice S Muralidhar and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan pulled the chariot of Lord Jagannath in the morning.
The deities are scheduled to stay at Gundicha Temple till July 8 (Friday ) and proceed towards Jagannath Temple on the occasion of Bahuda Yatra on July 9 (Saturday).