Rath Yatra: Chariots reach Gundicha Temple in Puri

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Puri. The chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra reached the Gundicha temple on Monday, marking the end of the first phase of the Rath Yatra festival in Puri, Odisha. Thousands of people pulled the chariots while lakhs of devotees gathered on the roadside to watch the Rath Yatra at ‘Badadanda’ amid heat and humidity.

The yatra began on Sunday evening but stopped after a few metres due to sunset. The 2.5 km long yatra from the 12th century temple to the Gundicha temple resumed at around 9.30 am on Monday and concluded at 2.35 pm. The three grand chariots will remain outside the Gundicha temple on the Grand Road. The deities will be taken inside the temple with a formal procession on Tuesday. The deities will stay in the temple for a week.

Director General of Police (DGP) Arun Sarangi also joined in pulling the chariots. He said, “The chariots have reached their destination. We have formed a ring around the three chariots and are controlling the crowd. Adequate traffic arrangements have been made for smooth flow of vehicles.” This time the Rath Yatra was a two-day affair after 53 years due to some astronomical conditions.

Breaking from tradition, some rituals including ‘Nabajoban Darshan’ and ‘Netra Utsav’ were held on Sunday. These rituals are usually held before the Rath Yatra. ‘Nabajoban Darshan’ means darshan of the deities in their young form, who were behind closed doors for 15 days in a ritual called ‘Anasara’ (quarantine) held after ‘Snaan Purnima’.

According to legend, the deities fall ill due to excessive bathing on ‘Snaan Purnima’ and hence remain behind closed doors. Before the ‘Nabajouban Darshan’, priests perform a special ritual called ‘Netra Utsav’ in which the eyeballs of the deities are painted afresh.

Superintendent of Police Pinak Mishra said that strict security arrangements have been made with the deployment of 180 platoons of security personnel (one platoon consists of 30 personnel). Police said that artificial intelligence based CCTV cameras have been installed at the festival venue ‘Bara Danda’ and other strategic places of the pilgrimage town.

Two people died, more than 130 injured during Rath Yatra in Odisha

At least two people were killed and over 130 injured in two separate incidents during the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath in Odisha, officials said on Monday. A resident of Bolangir district reportedly died of suffocation in a stampede-like situation during the Rath Yatra in Puri on Sunday, a health department official said.

St. John Ambulance Service official Sushant Kumar Patnaik said, “When he was taken to the ambulance, his pulse was beating. We took him to the hospital and gave him CPR but the doctors declared him dead.” According to sources, the devotee fainted on the Grand Road while pulling the chariot of Lord Balabhadra. He was immediately taken to the hospital in Puri district headquarters, where doctors declared him dead. Expressing grief over the incident, Odisha Chief Minister Mohan Charan Majhi has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the family of the deceased.

He has directed the concerned officials to ensure better treatment of the injured devotees. Police said that in another incident, a devotee died after allegedly coming under the wheel of a chariot during the Rath Yatra in Jharsuguda district on Sunday. The accident took place in Kukujungha village of the district. The deceased has been identified as Shyam Sundar Kishan (45).

While pulling the chariot, he fell down and the wheel of the chariot passed over him. He was immediately taken to the district headquarters hospital, where he died during treatment. An official of the health department of Puri district said that more than 130 people, including some policemen, were injured during the Rath Yatra.

Director of Health Services Vijay Mahapatra said that more than 600 people reached hospitals and medical camps in Puri. However, only about 130 people have been admitted. He said, “It is normal for people to be admitted to hospitals like this during Rath Yatra. The condition of none of the injured is very serious.”

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