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Lord Jagannath begins rath yatra

PURI, JUNE 19. This pilgrim city along the Bay of Bengal turned into a sea of humanity today with hundreds of devotees thronging the Grand Road to witness the annual `rath yatra' of Lord Jagannath.

Under an overcast early monsoon sky, the devotees waited patiently on the badadanda, the wide avenue in front of the 12th century Sri Jagannath Temple, for a glimpse of the presiding deities of the shrine — Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra and their sister Devi Subhadra — who embarked upon a nine-day annual sojourn to the Gundicha temple, 3 km down the street.

Tight security arrangements have been made for the `yatra,' one of the most important festivals in the Oriya almanac, with deployment of 61 platoons of the Orissa Special Armed Police and six platoons of the Rapid Action Force.

Earlier, the three colourfully decorated wooden chariots built by the temple carpenters were lined up outside the Singhadwar or Lion's gate. The sevayats, raising shouts of `Jai Jagannath' and `Haribol,' brought the huge idols into the open in a ritual known as pahandi.

The priests swung the idols to and fro amidst frenzied shouts, the blowing of conch shells and the clanging of cymbals.

After the pahandi, the Gajapati Maharaja of Puri Dibyasingh Deb arrived in a palanquin to perform the chhera pahara ritual — the sweeping of the wooden platform on the three chariots using a broom with a golden handle.

The `rath yatra' is also being celebrated at many places in the State including the towns of Baripada, Koraput, Dhenkanal and Kendrapara.

At Baripada, only the pahandi is conducted on the first day of the `yatra' and the chariots are pulled on the second and third day. Interestingly, the chariot of Devi Subhadra is pulled only by women here. — PTI

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