An air of festivity pervades over various parts of the city with a number of organisations making elaborate arrangements for the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra on Wednesday.

The nine-day festival marks the annual sojourn of Lord Jagannath at His aunt’s place – Gundicha Ghar. Once in a year the deities are taken out of the main abode to enable aam aadmi to have darshan on the streets.

Later during the stay at Gundicha Ghar, Lord Jagannath dons various avatars as per Hindu mythology.

Traditional dishes will be offered to the deities and later served to the devotees daily in the evening at the Gundicha Ghar till the Return Yatra. As a prelude to the divine journey, Tulsi Vesam was organised decorating the deities with tulsi at Jagannath temple, Daspalla Hills.

One lakh tulsi leaves were used for the ceremony.

The city’s oldest Lord Jagannathaswamy temple located on the Main Road will take out the divine journey for the 150 year from the temple to the Gundicha Ghar at the Turner’s Choultry.

Till July 19, various rituals will be performed. Discourses and chanting of bhajans are arranged daily.

“It’s a very big festival for not only Odias but also people belonging to other communities,” said P.C. Padhi, president of Utkalika Cultural Association, Ukkunagaram.

The highlight of the festival is the ‘chera pahara’ ceremony before pulling the chariots.

The floor is cleaned by the members of erstwhile royal families and other VVIPs to convey the message that before the Almighty, whether it is King or beggar, all are equal.

Member of erstwhile Daspalla ruling family – Lal Saheb Pramod Chandra Deo Bhanj – will sweep the floor with a golden broom at Daspalla Hills at the yatra organised by Utkal Sanskrutika Samaj (USS), RINL Chairman-cum-Managing Director A.P. Choudhary and his wife Lata Choudhary would do the honours at Ukkunagaram and Visakha-South MLA Dronamraju Srinivas in the Old Town area.

The chariot’s divine journey by USS will begin from Jagannath temple near AIR at 4:30 p.m. and it will reach Gundicha Ghar at Shanti Ashram on the beach road two hours later. Sri Jagannath Management Committee, which comes under Utkalika Cultural Association, will organise the festival at Ukkunagaram – the township of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. After pulling the chariot from Sector-9, it will return to the Gundicha Ghar located in the main temple complex, committee secretary Niranjan Sethi said.

International Society for Krishna Consciousness has brought a 35 feet canopy from Puri and it will be pulled on Wednesday from Sampath Vinayak temple to Gurajada Kalakshetram passing through Daba Gardens, Jagadamba junction and Waltair Road.

The festival will be celebrated traditionally by the Odias of Hindustan Shipyard Limited at Scindia.

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