The 145th Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath commenced on Friday morning in the city amid tight security as lakhs of devotees from across the state are flocking the route to catch a glimpse of the deity and witness the religious extravaganza.
Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel performed the 'Pahind Vidhi' - a symbolic ritual of cleaning the way for the chariots using a golden broom before the start of the Rath Yatra.
After the ritual, the chariots of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balbhadra and sister Subhadra embarked on the annual yatra from the 400-year-old Jagannath temple in the Jamalpur area.
Before the commencement of the Rath Yatra, Union Home Minister Amit Shah performed 'mangla aarti' (auspicious ritual to pay obeisance to Lord) of the deities in the temple in the early hours.
There is a great amount of enthusiasm among the people for this year's procession because a full-fledged Rath Yatra is being held after a gap of two years caused due to the pandemic.
In 2020, a symbolic rath yatra was organised on the premises of the Lord Jagannath temple, after the Gujarat High Court denied permission for the usual public procession in view of the pandemic.
Last year, only three chariots and two other vehicles had covered the entire route and returned without the usual festivity as no other vehicle, singing troupes, akhadas, elephants or decorated trucks were permitted.
This year, besides the three chariots of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balram and sister Subhadra, the Rath Yatra procession comprises nearly 15 decorated elephants, 100 trucks with tableaux and members of religious groups, akharas (local gyms) and singing troupes.
The yatra is taken out every year on Ashadhi Bij, the second day of Ashadh month, as per the Hindu calendar.
The procession will return to the temple at around 8.30 pm after passing through an 18-km-long route in the Old City, including some communally sensitive areas like Jamalpur, Kalupur, Shahpur and Dariyapur.
As many as 25,000 security personnel, including those from the Central Armed Police Forces, are deployed at strategic locations along the yatra route to prevent any untoward incident, officials said.