Lakhs of devotees participated in the annual Rath Yatra festival of Lord Jagannath on Thursday held amidst tight security in the temple town of Puri.
The festival was held just a month after Cyclone Fani barrelled through the temple town, where it wrecked large-scale devastation, and claimed 64 lives in Odisha.
The rituals were held as per the schedule with the cooperation of all the stakeholders and servitors, chief administrator of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration P K Mohapatra said.
The servitors carried the idols of Lord Balabhadra, Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Sudarshan out of the 12th-century shrine in a ceremonial procession called “Pahandi”.
Lord Jagannath was seated on his chariot “Nandighosh”, Lord Balabhadra on “Taladwaja” and Devi Subhadra on “Darpadalan”, along with Lord Sudarshan.
Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati paid his tributes to the idols on their respective chariots.
Gajapati Maharaj of Puri Divyasingha Deb arrived in his royal palanquin and carried out the “Chhera Panhara” ritual, the ceremonial sweeping of the chariots with a golden broom, amid chanting of “slokas” by the priests.
People started pulling the chariots around 2.15 pm, Mohapatra said.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, other ministers, MLAs and many other dignitaries were present in Puri to witness the grand festival.
Patnaik greeted people on the occasion of Lord Jagannath’s annual Rath Yatra and sought the blessings of the deities for the happiness and prosperity of people.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi also greeted people on the occasion.
“Greetings and good wishes to fellow citizens on the auspicious occasion of Rath Yatra. May the blessings of Lord Jagannath bring peace, happiness and prosperity to everyone’s lives,” the president said in a tweet.
“Best wishes to everyone on the special occasion of the Rath Yatra. We pray to Lord Jagannath and seek his blessings for the good health, happiness and prosperity of everyone. Jai Jagannath,” the tweet by the prime minister said.
Union ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Pratap Chandra Sarangi, both of whom are from Odisha, also greeted people on the occasion.