PURI: Millions of devotees from across the country and abroad thronged this pilgrim town on Tuesday when Lord Jagannath, the presiding deity of the 12th-century temple here, set off on his annual sojourn to his aunt’s house accompanied by elder brother Lord Balabhadra and sister Devi Subhadra on three majestic wooden chariots.
Special rituals like Mangla arati and Mailam were held before the deities proceeded out of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple after descending from the Ratna Sinhasana, the bejewelled throne.
The three deities were taken down the 22 steps of the temple known as ‘baisi pahacha’ through the Lion’s gate in an elaborate royal ritual called ‘Pahandi’ to the beating of gongs as devotees and sevayats jostled each other to have a closer look and to touch them.
Devotees poured into this seaside town since early morning to watch the ceremonial pulling of the huge chariots of the three deities on the ‘Bada Danda’, as the Grand Avenue is known, with security personnel deployed in strength keeping a watchful eye.
The temple was thrown open to public on July 11 for the ‘Naba Jaubana Darshan’ of the deities who remained confined to the ‘Anasara Pindi’ or recovery chamber following a ritual bath on ‘Snana Purnima’ on June 26.
At first Sudarshana, the celestial wheel of Krishna-Vishnu, was taken out and placed in the chariot of Subhadra. It was followed by Balabhadra, Subhadra and finally Jagannatha.
Jagannath was ensconced in the largest of the chariots, 45-feet high ‘Nandighosh’ which has 16 huge wooden wheels.
It was followed by the chariot of Balabhadra, the 14-wheeled 44-feet-high ‘Taladhwaja’ and lastly that of Subhadra known as ‘Darpadalan’ with 12 wheels and standing 43 feet high. Security cordoned each chariot.
The Gajapati King of Puri Divya Singha Deb arrived from his palace on a silver-plated palanquin for the ‘Chhera Pahanra’ ritual.
He offered prayers to the deity and then swept the platforms with a golden broom and sprinkled flowers and fragrant water.
Among VIPs who turned out to watch the rath yatra were the Governor, Mr M C Bhandare and the Chief Minister, Mr Naveen Patnaik.
Meanwhile, volunteers sprayed jets of water on the vast multitude to given them relief from the heat.