Rath Yatra: Chariot pulling begins in Puri

Thousands of people pulled forward giant chariots from the 12th century Jagannath temple in Puri towards Gundicha temple, around 2.5 km away, on Sunday afternoon.
Rath Yatra: Chariot pulling begins in Puri
Rath Yatra: Chariot pulling begins in Puri

Puri (Odisha) | Thousands of people pulled forward giant chariots from the 12th century Jagannath temple in Puri towards Gundicha temple, around 2.5 km away, on Sunday afternoon.

The chariot pulling started around 5.20 pm after Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalanada Saraswati visited the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra with his disciples and the Puri's titular king completed the 'Chhera Pahanra' (chariot sweeping) ritual.

The wooden horses were fitted to the chariots and the servitor pilots guided the devotees to pull the chariots in the right direction.

President Droupadi Murmu performed a 'parikrama' of the three chariots and bowed down before the deities.

The President, Odisha Governor Raghubar Das, Odisha Chief Minister Mohan Charan Majhi and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan symbolically started the mammoth exercise by pulling the ropes connecting the principal Jagannath chariot. Leader of Opposition Naveen Patnaik also had a 'darshan' of the sibling deities.

Thousands of people pulled the nearly 45-feet tall wooden chariot of Lord Balabhadra. It will be followed by pulling of chariots of Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath.

Rhythmically beating brass cymbals and hand drums, priests surrounded the gods on the canopied chariots as the procession made its slow way through the main street of the temple town.

The air rented with 'Jai Jagannath' and 'Haribol' as frenzied devotees tried to get a glimpse of the holy occasion.

Different artiste groups performed 'kirtans' (religious songs) and Odissi dance in front of the chariots before the procession started.

Around a million devotees are estimated to have converged on this town for the annual car festival. While most of the devotees were from Odisha and the neighbouring states, many from abroad also joined in what is considered one of the largest religious processions globally.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mohan Majhi reached in Puri and met Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati.

Majhi said he got the opportunity to meet the Puri seer, who advised him to provide service and justice to the poor and destitute of the state. The Shankaracharya has also advised the CM to take steps for the renovation of the Srikhetra Puri and Govardhan peeth.

Earlier in the day, Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra ascended their respective chariots after the completion of the three-hour-long 'Pahandi' ritual at 2.15 pm..

'Jai Jagannath' chants, sounds of gongs, conches and cymbals reverberated through the air at Lion's Gate of the Puri temple as Lord Sudarshan was first escorted to Darpadalan, the chariot of Devi Subhadra.

Following Lord Sudarshan, Lord Balabhadra was taken to his Taladhwaja chariot. Goddess Subhadra, the sister of Lord Jagannath and Lord Balabhadra, was brought to her Darpadalan chariot in a special procession by servitors.

Finally, Lord Jagannath was taken to the Nandighosa chariot in a ceremonial procession amid the sounds of gongs. In the 'Pahandi' ritual, deities are brought from the temple to the chariots.

Descending from the 'Ratna Sinhasana', the bejewelled throne, the three deities were taken out of the temple down the 22 steps known as 'Baisi Pahacha' through the Lion's Gate.

Several rituals like 'Mangla Arati' and 'Mailam' were held before the presiding deities set out from the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

Rath Yatra will be a two-day affair this year after 53 years due to some celestial arrangements..

In a departure from tradition, some of the rituals, including 'Nabajouban Darshan' and 'Netra Utsav', will be conducted in a single day on Sunday. These rituals are generally held ahead of the Rath Yatra.

'Nabajouban Darshan' means youthful appearance of deities, who were behind the doors for 15 days in a ritual called 'Anasara' (quarantine), conducted after 'Snana Purnima'.

According to mythology, the deities fall ill due to excessive bathing on 'Snana Purnima' and therefore remain indoors.

Prior to 'Nabajouban Darshan', the priests performed the special ritual called 'Netra Utsav' in which the eyeballs of the deities are painted afresh.

Tight security arrangements have been put in place, with the deployment of 180 platoons (one platoon comprises 30 personnel) of security personnel, Puri Superintendent of Police Pinak Mishra said.

Artificial Intelligence-based CCTV cameras have been installed at Badadanda, the venue of the festival, and other strategic locations in the pilgrim town, said ADG (law and order) Sanjay Kumar.

Altogether 46 fire tenders were deployed in various parts of the town and along the sea beach for the Rath Yatra, said DG, fire service, Sudhanshu Sarangi.

As hot and humid weather may prevail, water was sprinkled on the crowd, he said.

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