Puri, Odisha: In a magnificent display of devotion and grandeur, the annual Rath Yatra procession occurred today as an estimated one million devotees from around the world gathered in the coastal pilgrimage town. Led by the towering wooden chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Lady Subhadra, the procession made its way from the 12th-century stone temple in the heart of the town to their alternate abode about 2.5 kilometers away.
image source- business today
The momentous event
commenced with Governor Ganeshi Lal and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik symbolically pulling on the ropes connecting the principal Jagannath Chariot, signaling the start of the mammoth car-pulling exercise. Accompanied by priests surrounding the gods on the canopied chariots, the procession slowly wound its way through the main street of the sacred town.
The annual Rath Yatra, which signifies the nine-day sojourn of Lord Jagannath, attracts millions of devotees, with this year’s event witnessing a staggering influx of devotees, both from Odisha and neighboring states, as well as from abroad. It is widely considered one of the largest religious processions worldwide.
Earlier in the day,
amidst elaborate rituals, the Gajapati Maharaja of Puri, Divya Singha Deb, ceremoniously swept the chariots with a broom adorned with a golden handle, while priests sprinkled flowers and fragrant water. Various groups performed soul-stirring kirtans (religious songs) and danced in front of the chariots, adding to the spectacle and enhancing the devotional atmosphere.
To ensure the smooth conduct of the festival, the district administration and police made comprehensive security arrangements. The chariot pulling commenced after the completion of the “Chhera Pahanra” (Chariot Sweeping) ritual by Puri’s titular king. With the wooden horses securely fastened and the servitor pilots guiding the devotees in the right direction, the procession set off amidst palpable enthusiasm and completed the rituals ahead of schedule, according to Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) spokesperson, Ranjan Kumar Das.
The procession unfolded with Lord Balabhadra being the first to emerge from the temple, followed by Lady Subhadra, and finally, Lord Jagannath himself. Lord Balabhadra occupied the Taladwaj chariot, while Lord Jagannath adorned the Nandighosh chariot, and Chakra Raj Sudarsan was seated on Lady Subhadra’s Darpadalan chariot. Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nisachalanada Saraswati graced the event with his presence.
Amidst the fervor of the car pulling, a few individuals fell at Marichkote Chhak as Lord Balabhadra’s chariot passed by. Officials promptly provided medical assistance, swiftly transferring five of them to nearby hospitals using a specially designated green corridor, ensuring their prompt treatment and care.
image source- mint
The auspicious occasion
of Rath Yatra was greeted by several prominent figures, including the President of India Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and others, who extended their warm wishes to the devotees.
With the scorching heat and high humidity prevailing in the region, the district administration had made extensive arrangements to ensure the well-being of the devotees throughout the festival.
As the sun set on this majestic spectacle, the Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath left an indelible mark on the hearts of millions, celebrating both the rich cultural heritage of Odisha and the unwavering faith of devotees who converged on Puri from near and far.