As the countdown for the much-awaited Ratha Yatra of Lord Jagannath begins, thousands of devotees from across the country have started thronging this pilgrim town while three decorated chariots are ready to be pulled from the 12th century shrine.
The enthusiasm among the devotees is clearly visible across the state as the nine-day annual Rath Yatra of Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath will be held with full public participation after two years.
The devotees were denied entry into the holy town during the festival in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We expect a large gathering of about 10 lakhs on Ratha Yatra as the people are allowed to participate in the festival after a gap of two years,” said Development Commissioner, P. K. Jena.
This apart, people of other religions, mostly foreigners, who are not allowed entry into the Jagannath temple, are also waiting for a ‘darshan’ of the trinity, a senior official said adding that all arrangements including tight security are in the place for the mega event.
During the day, the three chariots were parked at the appropriate place in front of the Lion’s Gate of the temple from the chariot-making yard.
The pulling of chariots for parking was followed by a specific ritual called “Agnya Mala Bije”, which means with due permission of the Lords.
The religious fervour among the devotees spilled over the Grand Road here during the dummy chariot pulling for keeping them at the right place near the temple. The air rented with chanting of "Jai Jagannath" (Hail Jagannath), beating of cymbals and blowing of conch shells.
As per the schedule issued by the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), the deities will be brought to chariots in a ceremonial procession at 9.30 a.m. on July 1.
Chariot pulling to start at 4 p.m.
The procession activities will be completed by 12.30 noon while the titular king of Puri Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb will perform ‘Chhera Pahnra’ (sweeping of three chariots) between 2.30 p.m. to 3.30 p.m. The chariot pulling will start at 4 p,m.
More than 180 platoons of armed police personnel, including 1,000 officers of various ranks are deployed in and around Puri while around 50 CCTV cameras are fitted in Grand Road and other places in Puri to ensure safe conduct of the festival.
District Collector Samarth Verma said all rituals of deities are going on smoothly. The Odisha Fire Service is also keeping its equipment ready.
“Our trained personnel will be ready both in the Grand Road and also in the sea beach to intervene in any possible untoward incident,” said DGP Fire Service Santosh Kumar Upadhyay.
The Tata Power Central Odisha Distribution Limited has initiated a number of measures to ensure reliable power supply during the Rath Yatra.