Lakhs of devotees throng Puri for Car Festival

Bhubaneswar: Lakhs of devotees and tourists swarmed the temple town since early morning on Sunday to watch the Car Festival or Rath Yatra – where Lord Jagannath accompanied by elder brother Lord Balabhadra and sister Devi Subhadra set off on his annual sojourn to his aunt`s house on three majestic wooden chariots.

Special rituals like Mangla arati and Mailam were held before the deities proceeded out of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple after descending from the Ratna Sinhasan.

The ceremonial processions of the deities known as Pahandi – where the deities are carried out of the temple to the chariots began at 8.50 a.m.

At first Sudarshan, the celestial wheel of Krishna-Vishnu, was taken out and placed in the chariot of Subhadra. It was followed by Balabhadra, Subhadra and finally Jagannath.

Jagannath was ensconced in `Nandighosh` which has 16 huge wooden wheels. It was followed by the chariot of Balabhadra, the 14-wheeled 44-feet-high `Taladhwaja` and lastly that of Subhadra known as `Darpadalan` with 12 wheels and standing 43 feet high.

The Gajapati King of Puri will arrive from his palace on a silver-plated palanquin for the `Chhera Pahanra` ritual. Then he will offer prayers to the deities and then swept the platforms with a golden broom and sprinkled flowers and fragrant water.

The final ritual in the celebration of the Rath Yatra- the pulling of the chariots will begin with the chariot of Lord Balabhadra followed by that of Goddess Subhadra and at last Lord Jagannatha’s Nandighosha. The spectacular journey of the deities accompanied by lakhs of devotees would end as the chariots reach Sri Gundicha temple.

Security personnel, including the Rapid Action Force, are being deployed on the Grand Road to maintain law and order. Besides, bomb disposal squad, surveillance system (close circuit cameras), dog squads, fire and ambulance services have been put in place to meet any eventuality.