By Sudarshan Maharana
PURI: Bada Danda (Grand Road) on July 14 was brimming with devotees as lakhs, swathed in religious fervor, descended in Puri to witness the famous Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath. The annual nine-day sojourn of Holy Trinity of Lord Jagannath and His siblings began in time and in accordance with the associated rituals.
After ‘Mangala Alati’ at 6 am in the morning, the ‘Abakasha’ and other rituals were performed and the deities were offered ‘Gopal Bhog’ (breakfast). ‘Pahandi Bije’, the grand procession of the deities to the chariots which in itself is a spectacle to watch was undertaken with the associated pomp and ceremony from 9.30am. Amid chanting of ‘haribol’ and devotional songs, blowing of conch shells and the striking symphony of cymbals, the temple servitors took the deities on their shoulders from ‘Ratnavedi’ (throne of jewels) to their well-decorated chariots near Simha Dwara and placed them on their respective chariots under tight security.
Puri Shankaracharya arrived at Simha Dwara along with his aides to have darshan of the deities as ‘Pahandi Bije’ came to an end. After the deities were installed, Puri king Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb, the royal servitor of Lord Jagannath, performed ‘Chhera Panhara’ the sweeping of the three chariots, Taladhwaja, Nandighosa and Darpadalana. Seated in his royal palanquin, the Puri King came from his royal palace. The temple servitors escorted him onto the chariots to perform the ritual with a golden broom which continued till 2 pm.
The entire Grand road from Srimandir to Gundicha Temple was teeming with devotees who had come from all over the world to experience the unique spiritual event that symbolizes oneness with God, peace and amity. Braving the hot and humid weather conditions at the time of Pahandi Bije and torrential rain during ‘Chhera Pahanra’, the devotees jostled to have the glimpse of their beloved Lord on the chariot and eagerly waiting to experience the divine joy of pulling the chariots which will begin at 4.30pm.
With estimated 10 lakh devotees and visitors taking part, the Government has left nothing to chance to ensure smooth conduct of the festival. Apart from aerial survey, 140 platoon of police including central armed police force have been deployed keep an eye on the movement of the crowd and vehicles. Except ambulance, traffic movement in the Grand Road has also been completely stopped.
Governor Ganeshi Lal, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan were all in attendance at the Grand Road to pay their obeisance to the Holy Trinity. Pradhan even organized a Twitter Live event on the Rath Yatra proceedings with live commentary in Hindi.
By Sudarshan Maharana