Puri: Around 4 lakh devotees from across the country and abroad witnessed Lord Jagannath’s Bahuda Yatra – the return car festival – which was held in this seaside pilgrim city amid tight security Sunday.
The three deities – Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and their sister Devi Subhadra ended their annual nine-day sojourn to Srigundicha temple, their birth place, and return to Srimandir or Jagannath temple on three majestic wooden chariots during Bahuda Yatra.
Special rituals were performed before the deities were taken out of the Srigundicha temple and placed on the three colourfully decorated chariots for the return journey, amid chants of ‘Jai Jagannath’ and ‘Hari Bol’.
The deities were taken to their chariots in an elaborate ritual called Pahandi procession to the beating of gongs, cymbals and blowing of conch shells.
Sources in the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) claimed that the Pahandi procession started at 9 am, at least three hours ahead of the schedule.
Lord Jagannath was ensconced in the largest of the three chariots – the 45-feet high Nandighosha, Balabhadra in 44-feet high Taladhwaja and Subhadra in 43-feet high Darpadalan. The Pahandi procession was completed by 11.30 am, said an official of SJTA.
Gajapati king Dibyasingha Deb performed the Chhera Pahanra ritual at 12.20 pm. He offered prayers to the deities and then swept the platforms of the chariots with a golden broom and sprinkled flowers and fragrant water.
The chariots were then pulled by devotees amid gaiety and devotion on Bada Danda – the grand avenue leading to Shri Jagannath temple – up to the Lion’s gate in front of the Jagannath temple, where they would be stationed till July 25.
Devotees started pulling the Taladhwaja chariot at 1.22 pm, at least two-and-half hours ahead of the schedule while the Darpadalan chariot was pulled to its destination around 2 pm. Nandighosa chariot was the last to be pulled towards Srimandir around 2.10 pm.
The early pulling of chariots is said to be unprecedented in recent times. Usually, the ritual begins on schedule or later.
The three deities were offered Podapitha, a special cake, on their respective chariots when they reached Mausi Maa temple. “The Taladhwaja chariot reached the Lions’ Gate of Srimandir at 3.35 pm followed by Darpadalan chariot at 3.50 pm. The Nandighosa chariot reached the Lions’ Gate by the evening,” said the SJTA official.
The deities, who had embarked on the nine-day sojourn to the Srigundicha temple during Rath Yatra July 14, would finally re-enter the 12th century shrine and again be placed on the Ratna Singhasana, the bejewelled throne, during a ceremony called Neeladribije July 25.
Ahead of Neeladribije, the deities would be decorated with Suna Besha or golden attire July 23 on their chariots, which would attract a large number of devotees.
Over 3,000 police personnel were deployed in the pilgrim city besides central para-military forces to ensure smooth celebrations of the Bahuda Yatra, a senior police officer said.
50 hurt, Bengal minister held
Puri: At least 50 persons sustained injuries during the Bhahuda Yatra Sunday. Sources said 40 persons were hurt while they were trapped in a rush to pull the chariots. In addition, ten persons received injuries while bathing in the sea. Meanwhile, a minister of West Bengal government was detained after he was found taking photos and videos during Pahandi processions of deities inside Gundicha temple premises. A member of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) caught him red handed. Following the incident, police and staff of SJTA seized his electronic device, which were returned to him after deleting the photos and videos.