Devotees stand outside the Lord Jagannath temple ahead of the Rath Yatra in Puri on Wednesday.(ANI)
Devotees stand outside the Lord Jagannath temple ahead of the Rath Yatra in Puri on Wednesday.(ANI)

Rath Yatra 2019: Devotees start pulling Lord Jagannath’s chariot in Puri

The chariots of Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and younger sister Devi Subhadra were pulled by the devotees on the streets called Badadanda as people played drums, trumpets and sang devotional songs.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By HT Correspondent
PUBLISHED ON JUL 04, 2019 01:48 PM IST

Millions of devotees gathered in Puri for the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath on Wednesday amid heightened security as the nine-day annual celebrations began in Odisha’s temple town.

The chariots of Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and younger sister Devi Subhadra were pulled by the devotees on the streets called Badadanda as people played drums, trumpets and sang devotional songs.

Three garlands of consent from the three deities were placed on the chariots, decorated with small idols, lamps and flowers, officially starting the preparatory rituals for readying the chariots for pulling.

Devotees pulled the chariots from Ratha Khala or the construction site and then parked them outside the lion’s gate for the commencement of the rituals for the yatra.

The first chariot or Nandighosa to reach lion’s gate was that of Lord Jagannath, followed by Devi Subhadra’s Devadala and at last Lord Balabhadra’s Taladhwaja.

Devotees from all across the world have come to the temple town to witness the Rath Yatra 2019.

Datyaroka Swami Tapasi, one of the devotees from Croatia who is a frequent visitor to Shree Jagannath Temple, said he is witnessing the festival for the first time.

“I have visited the Shree Jagannath Temple a lot of times but this is my first experience of attending this festival. Every year due to some reason I am unable to plan a trip to this place especially during this festival, but this time I made sure to visit and seek blessings from the lord,” Tapasi was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

“I am going to cherish my first visit to this auspicious occasion of Rath Yatra all throughout my life,” Tapasi said.

“I am a bit emotional thinking that I am among the fortunate ones who could actually be a part of the celebrations and that too for the first time. I am really surprised to see the decorations and the huge raths which is just amazing,” Mangala, another devotee from Italy, said, according to ANI.

Security arrangements

The Odisha government has deployed 10,000 security personnel in the holy town for the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath as Indian Navy and Coast Guard will patrol the sea, an official said.

As many as 142 platoons of Odisha police, about 1,000 officers of various ranks, 2,450 Home Guards, three company of Rapid Action Force (RAF), two units of Orissa Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) , one unit National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF), three companies of the Odisha Swift Action Force (OSAF), a special wing of the police, besides eight anti-sabotage teams, a bomb disposal squad with sniffer dogs have been deployed in Puri, the official added.

Two additional director generals of police (ADGP) rank officers, five inspector generals of police (IGPs) and 1,000 commandant rank officers will also supervise the security arrangements.

“We are prepared for any situation apart from VVIP security,” inspector general of police (central Range) Soumendra Priyadarshi said, adding a mock drill of pulling of chariots was also conducted for the smooth and safe conduct of the event.

The Shree Jagannath Temple Administration’ chief administrator PK Mohapatra said the rituals of the Rath Yatra will go on smoothly with the cooperation of all the stakeholders,

“We have already prepared a timeline for the procession of deities and pulling of the chariots,” Mohapatra said, according to PTI.

“We will certainly meet the timeline given by the administration. The servitors will fully cooperate with the administration to make the festival a grand success,” said Binayak Dasmohapatra, a senior servitor.

Apart from the police, several state government departments of health, urban and housing development, sanitation and others are doing their best to make the occasion a grand success, said Mohapatra.

‘Jai Jagannath’

President Ramnath Kovind and Prime Minister greeted citizens on the occasion of Rath Yatra 2019 as they prayed for the “happiness and prosperity of everyone”.

“Greetings and good wishes to fellow citizens on the auspicious occasion of Rath Yatra. May the blessings of Lord Jagannath bring peace, happiness and prosperity to everyone’s lives,” the President tweeted from the official account of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

“Best wishes to everyone on the special occasion of the Rath Yatra. We pray to Lord Jagannath and seek his blessings for the good health, happiness and prosperity of everyone. Jai Jagannath,” PM Modi tweeted.

He also posted two photos from Rath Yatra in the past.

Union home minister Amit Shah prayed at the historic Jagannath Temple in Ahmedabad, ahead of the annual Gujarat Jagannath Rath Yatra that coincides with the Rath Yatra in Puri. This is his first visit to his home state after taking charge of the home ministry.

Shah, accompanied by his wife Sonal Shah, performed the ‘Mangala Aarti’ on Thursday morning at the Jagannath Temple to kick-start the annual Rath Yatra.

Pulling the chariots

Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Goddess Subhadra are usually worshipped in the sanctum of the famous Jagannath Temple in Puri. They are brought out of the temple every year on the second day of the third Hindu month of Asadha onto the Bada Danda street of Puri in three huge chariots accompanied by Sudarshana chakra.

Lord Jagannath’s chariot Nandighosa is 45.6 feet in height and has 18 wheels. The 45- feet chariot of Lord Balaram comes with 16 wheels and is known as Taladhvaja and Devadalana is Goddess Subhadra’s 44.6 feet chariot with 14 wheels. The chariots are built every year only from a particular type of tree.

Thousands of devotees pull the chariots to their aunt’s temple, the Gundicha Temple, 2km away from their temple. It is considered to be a good omen and is also believed to bring luck and success if one gets a chance to pull the chariots.

The deities stay at the Gundicha Temple for nine days, after which they ride the chariots back to their Jagannath Temple, a journey known as Bahuda Jatra.

On the way back, the chariots halt at the Mausi Ma Temple or home of Lord Jagannath’s aunt. The deities are offered Poda Pitha, a special pancake which said to be the favourite of Lord Jagannath, at the Mausi Ma Temple.

(With agency inputs)

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