Puri Rath Yatra Draws Huge Crowd



Lord Jagannath's Ratha Yatra 
[ Photo: Sampradaya Sun ]

Call it God's grace that the sun did not blaze, nor the clouds burst. Greeted by a million cheers, enamoured by serenading pilgrims and flanked by a posse of police personnel, the Deities of Jagannath Temple started Their nine-day sojourn to Gundicha Temple, known as Their birthplace, in gung-ho procession on the occasion of Rath Yatra on Sunday.

As the giant juggernauts started rolling on the Grand Road from Jagannath Temple, a wave of euphoria swept amidst chants of 'Jai Jagannath!' and beating of cymbals in soothing rhythms. Emotions ran high the moment devotees caught glimpse of the Deities, who were being taken from the temple onto the chariots in Pahandi procession.

Though the festival's day one was by and large peaceful, the chariots were stopped midway due to sundown. As per tradition, chariots are not pulled in the evening. While Goddess Subhadra's chariot was stuck near Bagala Dharmasala, Lord Balabhadra's chariot was stopped near Balagandi, with Jagannath's near Town Police station. The chariot pulling, which started at 4 pm following traditional Chhera Pahanra (sweeping of chariot floors) ritual by Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb, was stopped at 6.40 pm. It will resume on Monday morning.

The police heaved a sigh of relief as no untoward incident was reported. "We successfully handled the crowd of over 5 lakh. Though some devotees fainted due to humidity, they were discharged from first-aid centres after treatment. We hope the chariots reach safely at Gundicha Temple on Monday," DGP K. B. Singh said.

Jittery after an axle of Subhadra's chariot broke on Wednesday, the temple administration tried to keep the chariots less crowded. "We strictly warned people not to mount the chariots in the guise of priests. So far, we did not receive any complaint of violation," said temple's Chief Administrator, Pradeep Jena. "We heard some devotees touched the Deities during Pahandi procession. We will examine it through CCTV cameras," Jena said.

Temple administration admitted there was delay in conduct of the rituals. "It is a routine affair. Due to the delay, the chariots could not reach Gundicha Ttemple. It happened many times in the past," another temple officer said.

Tulasi Devi 
[ Photo: Sampradaya Sun ]

With police on their toes, devotees brushed aside all odds and tugged the three chariots in frenzied excitement. From dawn, devotees started occupying their positions to witness the annual extravaganza. "I was not worried about rain alert. Nothing could stop me from participating in this event as I have been coming to Rath Yatra without fail for the last 15 years," said Jayashish Mishra, a devotee from Sundargarh.

Bhakta Bihari dasa, a foreign devotee, was also excited. "This is the only occasion when the Deities come out of the temple, which is out of bounds for us, and we get a chance to see them from close proximity. I cannot express my happiness in words," the ISKCON devotee said. It was a treat to watch Odissi, Gotipua and Mahari dancers perform in front of the chariots. Some artisans attracted eyeballs by painting rangoli in front of the chariots.



Rath Yatra in Jagannath Puri - 9 July 1937





Jagannath Festival (1961)




Hinduism's Greatest Festival (1932)


Rare Video of Puri Jagannatha Ratha Yatra in 1928