Puri: Around five lakh devotees congregated in the Holy City Friday to witness the Bahuda Yatra – the return car festival of Lord Jagannath and his siblings, which was organised amidst tight security.
The annual Rath Yatra and the Bahuda Yatra were held two months after Cyclone Fani wreaked large-scale devastation in the Holy City.
During Bahuda Yatra, Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and younger sister Devi Subhadra end their annual nine-day sojourn to Srigundicha temple, and return to the Lions’ Gate of Srimandir riding on their respective chariots.
According to sources, the Mangalalati ritual of the deities was performed at 6.40 am at the Srigundicha temple. Servitors performed the routine rituals like Abakash, Rosahoma, Suryapuja, Dwarapala Puja and Sakala Dhoopa by 9 am.
The deities were taken to their respective chariots from Srigundicha temple through the ceremonial Pahandi procession amid beating of gongs, cymbals and blowing of conch shells. The Pahandi procession of the deities started at 9.10 am – at least two hours and 50 minutes ahead of the schedule, said a servitor.
Lord Jagannath was seated in his 45-feet-high chariot Nandighosh, Lord Balabhadra in 44-feet-high Taladhwaja and Devi Subhadra in 43-feet-high Darpadalan.
Gajapati king Dibyasingha Deb performed the Chhera Pahanra ritual, the ceremonial sweeping of the chariots with a golden broom by 12.55 pm.
Devotees and police personnel started pulling the chariots at 1.15 pm – at least two hours and 45 minutes ahead of the schedule.
The deities were offered Podapitha, a specially-baked cake, atop their chariots near the Mausi Maa temple on the Grand Road.
The Taladhwaja chariot of Lord Balabhadra reached the Lions’ Gate of Srimandir at 3.50 pm, followed by the Darpadalan chariot of Devi Subhadra at 4 pm.
The Nandighosa chariot of Lord Jagannath reached the Lions’ Gate at 5.30 pm after the performance of Laxmi-Narayan Bheta ritual near the palace of the Gajapati king at 5.10 pm.
The deities would now be worshipped on the respective chariots near the Lions’ Gate till July 15, said an official of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA).
The idols would re-enter the 12th century shrine and be placed on the Ratna Singhasana, the bejewelled throne, following a ceremony called Neeladribije. Ahead of Neeladribije, the idols would be decorated with Suna Besha or golden attire on their chariots Saturday.
Police and para-military personnel were deployed in the pilgrim town to ensure smooth celebrations of the return car festival, a senior police officer said.
Meanwhile, a stampede like situation ensued near the entrance of Dolamandap Sahi, located close to the Lions’ Gate of Srimandir. At least 50 persons were injured in the incident, police said.
“Elaborate security arrangements were made for smooth conduct of the return car festival,” said Inspector General of Police (Central Range), Soumendra Priyadarshi. A large number of CCTVs were also installed on the Grand Road, police said.