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Rath Yatra begins amidst tight security

Thousands of devotes from across the globe have gathered in Puri for the annual Rath Yatra (chariot festival).
IANS | By HT Correspondent, Puri
UPDATED ON JUL 16, 2007 12:14 PM IST

Thousands of devotes from across the globe have gathered in Puri, Orissa, where the temple of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra is located, for the annual Rath Yatra (chariot festival)on Monday.

For the smooth and peaceful conduct of the world famous festival, the state government has made elaborate security arrangements including installation of close circuit television cameras.

"About 68 platoons of armed police force have been deployed for the occasion, supervised by high ranking officials," a senior police official said.

While an estimated 600,000 devotees from across the globe assembled in the pilgrim town to witness the great event on Sunday, around 200,000 of them thronged the 12th century shrine to have the naba jauban darshan of the three deities.

The ritual marks the recovery of the three gods, who had fallen sick June 30 after a holy bath in 108 pots of sacred water.

"There was a huge rush of devotees to catch the first glimpse of the lords after they were taken to "anasar ghar" (sick chamber) for a fortnight and before they embark upon a nine-day sojourn from Monday," Puri Superintendent of Police Asit Panigrahi told IANS.

To prevent any untoward incident, close circuit television cameras have been installed along the Grand Road, the road leading to Mausima temple starting from the entrance of the Jagannath temple and important places like the bus stand and railway station.

"These are being monitored by our personnel for any suspicious looking persons or objects," Bhubaneswar range Deputy Inspector General YB Khurania told IANS.

"Quick Reaction Teams of the state police, a group of specially trained commandoes, have been deployed for any exigency. Sniffer dog squads, a bomb-disposal team and rooftop watchers will give police the extra edge in surveillance," he added.

Fire engines and ambulances have also been deployed on the Grand Road. The fire brigade will sprinkle water on pilgrims to counter the sweltering heat and high humidity.

"We are already monitoring the incoming traffic and have set up check posts at three entrances to the city. Five new outposts have been set up at several points en route to the city from Bhubaneswar and mobile patrolling has been intensified," said Khurania.

"Sixty-eight platoons of armed police force, two companies of specially trained Rapid Action Force, 16 officials of superintendent of police or commandant rank, 20 assistant commandants, 45 deputy superintendents, 56 inspectors, 600 assistant sub inspectors and 1,200 home guards have been deployed for the event," he added.

The East Coast Railways is running 41 special trains to cater to the extra rush of pilgrims from various places of the country.

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