Puri: With thousands of pilgrims having reached from far and near and taking part in the preeminent annual Rath Yatra festivities of Lord Jagannath on Thursday, the seaside pilgrimage town of Puri in Odisha was immersed in overwhelming religious fervour exactly two months after Cyclone Fani had walloped the district.
The 10th Century shrine, which houses Lord Jagannath, Odisha’s presiding deity, His elder brother Balabhadra and their younger sister Subhadra, was bedecked with flowers for the first time as the Trinity’s nine-day sojourn to their maternal aunt’s abode at Gundicha Temple, 3km away in the town, began.
A sea of humanity swirled around the three grandly built and decorated wooden chariots in which the three deities were placed after being taken out of the majestic temple amid devotional music and chanting and strict adherence to a complex set of rituals.
The titular king of Puri, Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb, who is the royal servitor of Lord Jagannath, performed the traditional Chhera Panhara, a ritual sweeping of the path in front of the three chariots with a broom, before the chariots were pulled by the thousands of assembled devotees with thick ropes.
Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb performs the traditional Chhera Panhara, a ritual sweeping of the path in front of the three chariots with a broom.
The ‘Bada Danda’ or grand avenue, the wide road in front of the temple, was chock-a-block with men and women who came from across the country and abroad to witness the divine journey of the Trinity in their three chariots, a centuries-old tradition whose popularity has only grown with time.
The chariot of Lord Balabhadra, called Taladhwaja, was pulled first as per established custom as he is the eldest among the three siblings. Then followed the pulling of Darpadalana, the chariot of Goddess Subhadra. Nandighosha, the chariot in which Lord Jagannath sits, was the last to be pulled and drew the maximum number of pilgrims as always.
On May 3, severe cyclonic storm Fani had battered the Odisha coast with wind speeds close to 200 kmph and Puri town, situated on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, had borne the brunt of the calamity as the storm had made its landfall in the district.
Thousands of buildings and most of the public facilities in the town had suffered massive damage. Parts of the temple structure had also suffered minor damage.
The grand Rath Yatra celebration this year brought relief and cheer to the people of Odisha as it showed that the pain caused by the Cyclone Fani had failed to hamper the devotional fervour of worshippers of Lord Jagannath.
Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), the government-run agency that supervises the temple’s affairs, has made elaborate preparations to ensure a smooth yatra. As many as 142 platoons of police force, two companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF), three units of Odisha State Armed Force, National Disaster Response Force teams and over 1,000 police officers have been deployed to make sure that the yatra is celebrated with discipline and safety.