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As lakhs converge to witness Rath Yatra, chariot pulling starts ahead of schedule at Puri

As lakhs converge to witness Rath Yatra, chariot pulling starts ahead of schedule at Puri
Nine-day long Rath Yatra began in Odisha's Puri on Thursday. (Photo | EPS)

PURI: Lakhs of devotees from across the country and abroad thronged the Grand Road in the Pilgrim Town to participate in the annual Rath Yatra under an overcast sky on Thursday. The entire stretch of Badadanda (Grand Road) transformed into an ocean of humanity against the backdrop of three colourful chariots and flower decorated temple. All four gates of the temple besides Jagamohan, Natamandap and Bhogmandap were decorated with flowers.

As soon as Lord Jagannath came out of the Singhadwar (main gate of the temple) in Pahandi (procession) swinging his giant tiara, devotees chanted religious hymns while Hari Bol, Jai Jagannath and Huluhuli rented the air. As per the schedule, servitors performed Mangal Arati, Mailum, Abakash and Surya Puja, dressed the deities and offered khichdi bhog in the morning.

Then the deities were escorted in pahandi by the Daita servitors with Lord Balabhadra leading, followed by Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath coming at the end. Temple musicians played the music with instruments like cymbals, ghantas, mridang, conch shell and bugles while Odissi dancers added to the festivity. The entire festival schedule was advanced by more than one hour. While Pahandi was to begin at 9.30 am, it started at 8.15 am and pulling of chariots scheduled at 4 pm, began by 2.15 pm.

Sankaracharya Swamy Neeschalananda Saraswati of Puri Govardhan Perth came to raths and offered prayer while Gajapati Dibyasingh Deb performed “chhera pahanra” (sweeping the chariots) with a gold broom. After wooden horses were attached, Lord Balabhadra began the journey riding Taladhwaj chariot at 2.10 pm. Devi Subhadra in her Darpdalan followed him at about 3 pm while Lord Jagannath’s Nandighosa started rolling at 3.50 pm.

Governor Ganeshi Lal, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Speaker of the Assembly Surya Patra, ministers Nabakishore Das, Sameer Ranjan Dash, Arun Sahoo, Pratap Jena, Dibyashankar Mishra, Suresh Routray, Braja Kishore Tripathy and BJP leader Sambit Patra pulled the chariots.

Chief Secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi, DGP RP Sharma were present. About 10,000 police personnel were deployed besides RAF, ODRAF, NDRF and bomb disposal units while 250 CCTV cameras kept an eye on the crowd. A special integrated control room regulated the vehicular traffic.

Security in air, water and land was ensured by civil aviation, Indian Navy, Coast Guard and marine police. Additional DGP Sanjeeb Panda and five IGPs besides Chief Administrator of temple PK Mahapatra, Puri Magistrate Balwant Singh and SP Umashankar Dash were looking after the festival arrangements.Lord Balabhadra reached Gundicha temple by 4.10 pm and Devi Subhadra by 5.50 pm. Lord Jagannath’s Nandighosh Rath was nearing the destination when the report was filed.

Tragedy strikes Jajpur

JAJPUR: The Rath Yatra festival at Sukinda chromite valley turned into a tragedy on Thursday as two persons were electrocuted and seven others injured when the chariot of the Holy Trinity came in contact with a live electricity wire at Kaliapani. The mishap took place near the Jagannath temple at TISCO colony before the start of the chariot-pulling ceremony. Incidentally, the chariot of the Trinity this year was made of iron instead of wood. It was being taken to the starting point near the temple for commencement of the ceremony when it came in contact with overhead 11-KV power line. The colourful cloth wrapped around the chariot immediately caught fire while the entire frame of the chariot became charged by the electricity wire. Two persons, who were pulling the chariot at the time, died on the spot while seven others sustained injuries. The deceased were identified as Suchitra Lenka and Bharat Ray. They belonged to the chromite valley area. Fire personnel doused the fire. Pulling of the chariot was suspended.

Boy crushed under chariot

BHUBANESWAR/KHURDA: An eight-year-old boy died after he was crushed under the wheels of a chariot during Rath Yatra at Banpur in Khurda district. According to Banpur police, Sunil Patra of Chianka Sahi was pulling the chariot when he was pushed under the chariot in the rush. He was rushed to Banpur Community Health Centre (CHC) but the doctors there referred him to another hospital. The boy was taken to primary health centre (PHC) in Balugaon where he was declared brought dead.

The locals alleged that adequate police were not deployed near Charana Chaka temple from where the chariot of Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra started rolling. They also staged protest in front of Banapur police station and blocked the road. Local MLA Prashant Jagdev arrived at the spot and assured the protestors that compensation will be provided to the kin of the deceased. A case of unnatural death has been registered and further investigation was on, said Banpur IIC SK Patnaik.

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