Lakhs gather in Puri for Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra

RSTV Bureau

Puri: One of the devotees dances during Nabakalebara Rathyatra in Puri on Saturday. Photo – PTI

The century’s first ‘Nabakalebar’ Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath was held on Saturday in the pilgrim town of Puri. Lakhs of devotees from across the country and abroad gathered to witness the commencement of a nine-day journey of the new idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra to Gundicha Temple and back to their abode.

Pime Minister Narendra Modi also extended his wishes on the occasion of 138th Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath.

“Friends, on this blessed day of Rath Yatra, my warm greetings to all of you. This tradition is celebrated across India with great enthusiasm & is now known all over the world,” PM Modi said.

“With the blessings of Lord Jagannath, may the spirit of Sadbhavna, unity & joy be furthered in society. With Lord Jagannath’s grace, may the poor & farmers attain prosperity,” the Prime Minister added.

Devotees from all walks of life have been making a beeline to the town since Saturday for the world famous annual festival of chariots to catch a glimpse of the presiding deities of the 12th century shrine of Sri Jagannath. Enthusiasm and excitement ran high among devotees as the deities remained indoors for 45 days this time due to Nabakalebara marking change of bodies of the Lords, which took place after a gap of 19 years.

‘Naba Jaubana Darshan’ of the deities was performed on Friday as they remained confined in ‘Anasara Pindi’ (recovery chamber) after the grand bath on ‘Snana Purnima’ on June 2.

Strict security measures were put in place with over 30 lakh pilgrims expected to attend the festivities. The state police have deployed about 10,000 personnel besides putting air and coast surveillance in place.

“Police are well-prepared to face any situation. Besides engagement of many senior officers, 164 platoons of force have been deployed at strategic points. Precautions have been taken to avoid any stampede like situation,” IGP and Officer on Special Duty Soumendra K Priyadarshi said.

Personnel of Anti Terrotist Squad (ATS), Rapid Action Force (RAF) and sharp shooters have been deployed at vital points while the Coast Guard keeps a vigil on the sea.

(With inputs from the PTI)