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Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: Braving scorching heat, thousands of devotees turned up for pulling the chariot of Lord Lingaraj on occasion of Rukuna Rath Yatra in the Ekamra Kshetra, the temple city Bhubaneswar today.

Devotees from various corners of the State teemed the 2km-long Ratha Danda in the Old Town for the annual festival. Amidst beating of gongs, conches and chanting of hymns, devotees pulled the chariot of the Lord.

After the traditional ‘Mangal Alati’ and ‘Sahan Mela’ darshan, the bronze idols of ‘Chandrasekhar’ (representative idol of Lord Lingaraj), Devi Rukuna and Ananta Basudev were taken to the chariot in the ceremonial Pahandi (procession ritual of the deities from the temple to chariot) at 2 pm, with a delay of one-and-half hour.

The pulling of chariot began at 5.40 pm. As per last reports, the chariot halted at Badhei Banka chhak before it could reach its destination. The pulling of chariots will continue tomorrow, official sources said.

In view of the large turnout of devotees, the district and temple administration had made adequate arrangements for crowd and traffic management. As many as 20 platoons of police force were deployed in the area to ensure peaceful conduct of festival.

As per rituals, every year on the occasion of Ahokastami, Lord Lingaraj sets out on a four-day journey to Rameswar temple, for visiting his aunt (Mausi Maa). On the fifth day, the Bahuda Yatra takes place when the Lord returns to the abode.

Preceding the world famous Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath in Puri, the Rukuna Rath Yatra in Bhubaneswar has some unique attributes. Unlike in Puri, the chariot here never takes a turn during the Bahuda Yatra but is pulled backwards.

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