Millions Take Part in Puri Rath Yatra



Deities being taken on Pahandi procession 

Braving heavy rain, a large number of people turned up and cheered Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra during the Deities' divine journey on chariots from Jagannath Temple to Gundicha Temple (Their birthplace), marking Rath Yatra on Saturday. As the giant juggernauts started rolling on the Grand Road in gung-ho procession, a wave of euphoria swept the temple town. Emotions ran high the moment devotees caught glimpse of the Deities on chariots.

The success of this year's car festival was marked by timely completion of the rituals by the servitors. Pahandi, a key ritual in which the servitors bring Their Lordships from the sanctum sanctorum to the chariots, was completed by11.45 a.m. In previous years, the Pahandi ritual was completed around 1 p.m. Pulling of chariots that usually started at around 3.45 p.m. or 4 p.m. in the past started at around 2.35p.m. on Saturday.

Famous sand artist, Sudarsan Patnaik creating miniature chariots at his residence in Puri

As per tradition, the chariot of Lord Balabhadra was tugged first followed by the chariots of Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath. However, only the chariots of Balabhadra and Subhadra reached the destination (Gundicha Temple) by covering a distance of 3 km from Jagannath Temple. The chariot of Lord Jagannath was stuck near Balagandi Square, about 1.5 km from Gundicha Temple, as it veered off the Grand Road and hit a roadside stall. Pulling of Jagannath's chariot resumed on Sunday morning.

Temple sources said the servitors completed the rituals on time, as they were jittery after being pulled up by the Supreme Court for their alleged misconduct and exploitative attitude towards pilgrims. The apex court on June 8 banned the servitors from collecting dakshina from devotees. Besides, the Puri judge Ambuja Mohan Das also recommended to the Supreme Court that the hereditary appointment of servitors should be abolished.

When contacted, temple's Chief Administrator Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra said that the rituals of the Deities went on smoothly thanks to the cooperation of servitors. The police heaved a sigh of relief as no untoward incident was reported. "We successfully handled lakhs of crowd. Rath Yatra was peaceful. Though some devotees fainted due to humidity, they were discharged from first-aid centres after treatment. Similar security arrangements will follow suit during July 22 Bahuda (return car festival)," said Director General of Police, R. P. Sharma.

As police remained on their toes, devotees brushed aside all odds and attempted to breach the police cordons to get near the chariots. From dawn, devotees started occupying their positions on Grand Road to witness the annual extravaganza. "I was not worried about rain or possible stampede. Nothing could stop me from participating in this event as I have been coming to Rath Yatra without fail for past four years," said Jeevan Agarwal from Sambalpur.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik greeted people on the occasion of Rath Yatra. "With the blessings of Lord Jagannath, may our country scale new heights of growth. May every Indian be happy and prosperous," Modi tweeted. Naveen, who visited Puri and watched the Rath Yatra, tweeted: "Warm wishes on occasion of holy Rath Yatra. May Lord Jagannath guide us on path of peace, prosperity & unity." Governor Ganeshi Lal, union minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Congress state President Niranjan Patnaik among a host of other dignitaries toured Puri and took part in the car festival.