The devotees were seen filled with excitement outside the iconic Lord Jagannath Temple in Puri ahead of the annual Rath Yatra or chariot festival. The Rath Yatrab which is regarded as one of the biggest festival across the world draws huge number of tourists to Odisha both international and domestic. Due to the COVID pandemic spread, the festival was carried out at a very low level past two-years with just the minimum rituals of Rath Yatra taking place like travelling from main temple to Gundicha temple.
With the idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra were brought out from Puri Jagannath Temple for the Rath Yatra the devotees standing alongside the Boro Danda (the road in front of the temple going towards the Gundicha Temple or Mashir Maa Bari) chanted ‘Jai Jagannath’. The panda (priests) were seen giving the last-minute touches to the decoration of the three chariots.
The three Raths of Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra have been stationed in front of the Sinhadwara or the Lion Gate of the Shreemandira since Thursday. Nandighosh is the name of Lord Jagannath’s chariot, Devi Subhadra’s chariot is Darpadalana, and Lord Balabhadra’s chariot is Taladhwaja.
The festival of Ratha Yatra takes place every year on the second day of the Shukla Paksha in the months of June or July. There is a huge task in the back end from collecting the special logs, building the chariots as per the special specifications, and finally decorating the three Raths. The preparations for the next year’s Rath Yatra starts almost immediately after the Rath Yatra is over. As the construction of the chariots begins on Akshaya Tritiya, that falls on the third day of Vaisakha. If you visit Puri then you must have seen artisans alongside Boro Dondo busy crafting wood for the chariot wheels.
The Odisha police has made elaborate security arrangements anticipating the huge footfall. However, devotees and organisers attending the ritual Rath Yatra were seen grossly flouting the COVID protocols. Incidentally, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had distributed over 1.2 lakh face masks and requested all to follow the protocols and be safe.
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