Lakhs of devotees and tourists flocked to Orissa's Jagannath Temple in Puri as the annual chariot festival or Rath Yatra began on Sunday.
All the rituals have began almost on scheduled time, Laxmidhar Pujapanda, the public relations officer of Jagannath Temple, said.
The festival marks the journey of three Hindu deities - Jagannath, brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra from the 12th century Jagannath temple, about 56km from state capital here. They are carried in three splendid wooden chariots, pulled by devotees, to the Gundicha temple, about two kilometres away.
Half a million devotees had reached Puri by 8am, Pujapanda said.
"The weather is conducive and we hope by evening, the numbers could swell to more than a million," he said.
The ceremonial processions of the deities known as Pahandi (carrying the deities out of the temple to the chariots) started at 8.35am, he added.
Chariot pulling was likely to start at 3pm, he said
The festival culminates nine days later when the deities make their way back home to the Jagannath temple in their return journey known as Bahuda Yatra. A glimpse of the deities on the chariot is considered to be very auspicious.
The state government has made elaborate arrangements in the town to prevent any untoward incident. Thousands of policemen have been deployed to maintain law and order. Closed circuit security cameras have been installed at various places to keep a watch on troublemakers and manage crowds.
Sniffer dogs, bomb detection and disposal squads and fire tender units have been stationed to meet emergencies, a police officer said.
At least 56 special trains are running from different parts of Orissa, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh to meet the extra rush of passengers to Puri during the festival, the Bhubaneswar headquartered East Coast Railway said.