The Odisha temple town is all set to host the 21st century’s first Nabakalebara Rath Yatra on Saturday, with pilgrims having arrived from Thursday morning.
State government officials expect more than 30 lakh tourists during the week-long celebration. Hundreds of clean drinking water outlets, more than 2,000 tubewells, 3,000 toilets and bathrooms have been constructed around the city.
Puri has about 500 hotels, 200 lodgings, 100 ashrams and dharamshalas — all of which have been filled up. Thirty three Nabakalebara villages (tourist shelters) have been erected to accommodate tourists.
The state administration has arranged for free bus services to ferry pilgrims to the city, where vehicular inflow has been restricted until the yatra ends.
“We are expecting huge crowds and are ready for it,” said inspector general of police, Soumendra Priyadarshi, who has been specially deputed as an officer on special (OSD) duty to supervise the yatra.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik has deputed four ministers and an army of bureaucrats to supervise the smooth functioning of the festival. More than 10,000 police and paramilitary personnel, including 50 top officials, will maintain law and order.
Nabakalebara is the periodical renewal of the wooden images of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra. It is celebrated once in either 12 or 19 years. The 20th century has witnessed six such festivals — in 1912, 1931, 1950, 1969, 1977 and 1996.