Rath Yatra: Rath Yatra started in Puri

The Uncut

Puri. Thousands of people pulled the huge chariots from the 12th century Jagannath temple in Puri on Sunday afternoon and proceeded towards the Gundicha temple about 2.5 km away. Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati along with his disciples had darshan of the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra and the king of Puri completed the ‘Chhera Pahanara’ (chariot cleaning) ritual, after which the chariot pulling began at around 5.20 pm.

Wooden horses were attached to the chariots and servant pilots were guiding the devotees to pull the chariots in the right direction.
President Draupadi Murmu circumambulated the three chariots and bowed before the deities. The President, Odisha Governor Raghubar Das, Odisha Chief Minister Mohan Charan Majhi and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan symbolically began the exercise by pulling the ropes connecting the main Jagannath chariot. Opposition leader Naveen Patnaik also visited the three deities.

Thousands of people pulled the nearly 45-foot-high wooden chariot of Lord Balabhadra. This will be followed by the chariots of Goddess Subhadra and Lord Jagannath. Beating the beats of brass cymbals and hand drums, priests surrounded the deities on umbrella-bearing chariots as the Rath Yatra moved slowly through the main street of the temple town. The entire atmosphere was filled with chants of ‘Jai Jagannath’ and ‘Haribol’ as devotees tried to catch a glimpse of the deity on this auspicious occasion.

Before the Rath Yatra began, various artist groups performed ‘kirtans’ and Odissi dances in front of the chariots. It is estimated that around one million devotees have gathered in the city for the annual Rath festival. Most of the devotees were from Odisha and neighbouring states, many foreigners also joined the Rath Yatra, which is considered one of the largest religious events globally. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mohan Majhi reached Puri and met Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati.

Majhi said that he had the opportunity to meet the Shankaracharya of Puri, who advised him to provide service and justice to the poor and destitute of the state. The Shankaracharya has also advised the Chief Minister to take steps for the renovation of Shrikshetra Puri and Govardhan Peetha. Earlier in the day, Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra were installed on their chariots at 2.15 pm after the completion of the three-hour-long ‘Pahandi’ ritual.

When Lord Sudarshan was first taken to Goddess Subhadra’s chariot ‘Darpadalan’, the devotees chanted ‘Jai Jagannath’ amidst the sounds of bells, conches and cymbals at the main entrance of the Puri temple. Lord Balabhadra was taken to his ‘Taladhwaj Rath’ behind Lord Sudarshan. The servants brought Lord Jagannath and Lord Balabhadra’s sister Goddess Subhadra to the ‘Darpadalan’ chariot by taking out a special procession.

Finally, Lord Jagannath was taken on the ‘Nandi Ghosh’ chariot in a traditional procession amid the sound of bells.
Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra were brought out of the temple from the jewel-studded throne through an elaborate royal ritual ‘Pahandi’ through the Lion Gate through 22 steps (Baisi Pahacha). Several traditional rituals like ‘Mangala Aarti’ and ‘Mailam’ were performed before the main deities were brought out of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

Several rituals like ‘Mangala Aarti’ and ‘Mailam’ were performed before the deities emerged from the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. This year, after 53 years, the Rath Yatra will be a two-day affair due to certain astronomical conditions. Breaking from tradition, some rituals including ‘Nabajouban Darshan’ and ‘Netra Utsav’ will be performed on a single day on Sunday. These rituals are usually performed before the Rath Yatra.

‘Nabajoban Darshan’ means the young form of the deities, who were behind doors for 15 days in a ritual called ‘Anasara’ (quarantine) held after ‘Snaan Purnima’. According to mythology, the deities fall sick due to excessive bathing on ‘Snaan Purnima’ and hence remain indoors. Before ‘Nabajoban Darshan’, the priests performed a special ritual called ‘Netra Utsav’ in which the eyeballs of the deities are painted afresh.

Puri Superintendent of Police Pinak Mishra said that strict security arrangements have been made with the deployment of 180 platoons (one platoon consists of 30 personnel) of security personnel. ADG (Law and Order) Sanjay Kumar said that artificial intelligence-based CCTV cameras have been installed at the festival venue Badadanda and other strategic places in the pilgrimage town. Director General of Fire Services Sudhanshu Sarangi said that a total of 46 fire engines were deployed in various parts of the city and on the beach for the Rath Yatra. He said that since the weather may remain hot and humid, water was sprinkled on the crowd.

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