The deities were taken into a ‘ratham’ and pulled from the temple at Town Kotha Road to Turner’s Choultry.

Religious fervour and enthusiasm marked the beginning of the annual ‘rath yatra’ (chariot festival) of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra in the city on Thursday.

Hundreds of people pulled the chariots amid chanting of Vedic hymns and ‘Hari Bol’. Sweeping of the floor was done at various places by VVIPs to convey the message that there was no difference between the king and the commoner before the Almighty.

Oldest temple

The ‘rath yatra’ organised by the city’s oldest Jagannathaswamy temple saw participation by many from the Old Town. The deities were taken into a ‘ratham’ and pulled from the temple at Town Kotha Road to Turner’s Choultry. Separate ‘rathams’ from Embaramannarswamy and Sitaramaswamy temples also followed the main ‘ratham’.

Government Whip Dronamraju Srinivas and Visakha West MLA Malla Vijaya Prasad were the first to offer coconut and pull the ‘ratham’. Endowment Deputy Commissioners — Brahmaramba and Ch.V. Ramanamma — and Jagannathaswamy temple Executive Officer A. Jagannadha Rao were present.

‘Chhera Pahanara’

At the celebrations organised by Utkal Sanaskrutika Samaj, the deities were taken out from the temple behind All India Radio and placed in the chariot amid blowing of conch, beating of ‘dappu’ and other traditional instruments. ‘Chhera Pahanara’ (the customary cleaning of the chariot) was done by Lal Saheb Pramod Chandra Deo Bhanj.

The colourful chariot carrying the deities was pulled by the devotees from Sri Jagannath temple to the Gundicha Ghar at Lawson’s Bay Colony near Shanti Ashram. The chariot passed through HP Millennium Bunk, AU in-gate, China Waltair, VUDA Park, and Peda Waltair junction.

The deities will be kept at Gundicha Ghar till June 28. The return yatra called ‘Bahuda’ will be organised on June 29. Samaj president and Orissa Stevedores Ltd General Manager J.K. Nayak and secretary Bijoy Mahapatra appealed to the devotees to take part in various programmes.

At VSP

Visakhapatnam Steel Plant employees and family members, including RINL Chairman-cum-Managing Director A.P. Choudhary and Directors, prayed to Lord Jagannath for peace to the departed souls on the occasion of ‘rath yatra’ at Ukkunagaram.

As a mark of respect to those who died in the VSP blast, the cultural programmes were cancelled this year.

Scores of devotees pulled the chariot along the streets of Ukkunagaram. Bhajans were rendered along the yatra route.

Directors — Umesh Chandra (Operations), T.K. Chand (Commercial), Y.R. Reddy (Personnel), and N.S. Rao (Projects), along with families, offered prayers to Lord Jagannath.

At ISKCON

The yatra organised by ISKCON from Sampat Vinayagar temple to Gurazada Kalakshetram passed through Dabagarden, Jagadamba junction, and Siripuram.

Sri Jagannatha Swamy and His consort on a mechanised flower-bedecked chariot attracted a large crowd.

After special pooja, a colourful procession was taken out. ‘Sannai’, ‘kolatam’, ‘Hare Krishna sankirtana’, and men in mythological characters formed part of the procession.

APCC president and Transport Minister Botcha Satyanarayana, Mr. Srinivasa Rao, and MLA V. Ramakrishna Babu participated in the celebrations.

Discourse

At Gurazada Kalakshetram, devotional music and discourse by ISKCON Visakhapatnam president Samba Das marked the celebration.

As many as 108 ‘prasadams’ brought by devotees were offered to Jagannatha Swamy and later distributed among the devotees.

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