Lakhs of devotees thronged the coastal town of Puri as chariots of sibling deities Lord Balabhadra, Lord Jagannath and Devi Subhadra were pulled from their 12th century abode during the annual Rath Yatra on Wednesday.

Chariots were taken in a spectacular procession to Mausi Maa Temple, considered to be the home of the deities’ aunt, along the three-km-long Grand Road. Over 100 platoons of armed police personnel were assigned to manage vehicular movement in the tiny town and prevent terror activities.

From the morning, the Shri Jagannath Temple, Puri, witnessed frenzied activities as intricate rituals were performed for the deities. By 9 am, devotees packed themselves into every conceivable space near the temple, their eyes fixed on its entrance point.

Hordes of servitors, cordoned by police personnel, carried the huge wooden idols from the temple swaying them rhythmically in a ritual described as ‘pahandi.’ Devotees danced ecstatically and cries of ‘Jai Jagannath’ and ‘Haribol’ rent the air.

Gajapati Divyasingha Deb, who is regarded as Puri’s designated King, performed the customary ‘Chhera Pahanra’ — sweeping of the wooden floors of the chariots — before they began their journey. They, however, did not reach the destination by evening. Pulling of the chariots will resume on Thursday.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his Cabinet colleagues were present in Puri. Security in and around the town was tightened in view of the serial explosion at Bodh Gaya. Close circuit cameras were installed and a striking force was kept ready for emergency situations. There was no report of any untoward incident.

UAVs in Ahmedabad

Darshan Desai writes from Ahmedabad:

Ahmedabad’s 136-year-old Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra saw Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) being deployed for the first time. A huge police force was in attendance.

The Rath Yatra started from the 400-year-old Jagannath Temple in old Ahmedabad’s Jamalpur area. Chief Minister Narendra Modi performed the symbolic cleaning of the path for the three chariots. The procession in Ahmedabad is the biggest after the Puri Yatra.

The raths trundled through communally sensitive areas of the city such as Kalupur, Prem Darwaja, Delhi Chakla, Dariyapur and Shahpur in the old city. The Rath Yatra day in Ahmedabad has for years seen communal riots in areas with mixed neighbourhoods, often sparked by rumours.

Tight security was in place in 127 different localities through which the procession passed. Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras were installed at some locations.

Fourteen companies of paramilitary forces and eight teams of Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) were deployed around the city.