Devotion transcends controversy: Highs & lows of Nabakalebar
Puri: Nabakalebar, being the first one the millennium and the one which arrived almost two decades later espoused unprecedented degree of anticipation among the devotees of Lord Jagannath. Though the festival saw its share of controversies, the curtains were drawn on Nabakalebar on a timely and peaceful manner in which around 3 million devotees successfully witnessed the mega ritual.
With such huge influx of devotees, laying out the infrastructure was one of the major challenges for the administration. Apart from a few delays, health, sanitation, transportation infrastructure were in place which ensured a smooth and peaceful ritual.
Some of the noteworthy infrastructural development which went a long way in ensuring a smooth ritual included the bus terminal at Maltipatpur. The newly constructed Malatipatpur bus terminal along the Bhubaneswar-Puri National Highway (NH) played a great role in controlling the traffic system here, as various buses had taken passengers from here to Bada Danda (Grand Road). The bus stand, which was built on a 10 acre plot at an expenditure of Rs 70 crore, is the first in the State to have all modern facilities. Buses coming from different places of the State were not allowed to enter the Holy City during the mega event, as all were parked at the Malatipatpur bus stand.
The administration has set up 33 Nabakalebara villages (tourist shelters) across the town to accommodate tourists. The shelters with all basic facilities, which the administration coined as Nabakalebar villages were ready to accept tourists during Rath Yatra. All the shelters have been constructed at strategic locations along the road leading to the temple town.
Simlilarly, on healthcare front, as many as 500 new beds were put in place for Nabakalebar and special emphasis was laid on treatment of women and children during the festival.
The State government also deployed over 10,000 policemen for crowd management and to thwart any possible terror-incident. Barring two deaths no accidents were report.
Last but not the least, all the rituals of the Rath Yatra were conducted in a timely manner leading up to the end of the ritual.
However, the festival was also marred by controversies. The delay in the Brahma Paribartan ritual was one of the most visible blots which drew criticism from all quarters. Moreover, on the infrastructure development front, the State government also missed the deadlines, drawing flak from opposition parties. Another major anomaly which was noticed during the festival was that of a woman devotee climbing the chariot of Lord Jagannath even after the Orissa High Court had ruled that no devotee should be allowed to climb the chariots.