Puri:Riding on their respective decorated chariot the presiding deities of Sri Jagannath temple embarked on a nine-day sojourn today and reached Gundicha temple, their birthplace, before the sunset.
It was for the second consecutive year amid tight security, enforcement of Covid protocols and without the participation of devotees, the lord of the universe Lord Jagannath along with Balabhadra and sister Subhadra went on a joy ride to their Janma Bedi (birthplace) Gundicha temple on the auspicious occasion of Ashadha Shukla Dwitiya today.
The festival process began at 4.30 am with priests performing Mangal arati followed by Mailum, Tadap lagi, Abakash and then Khichdi bhog was offered before the deities were escorted to their respective chariot in ceremonial Pahandi procession.
The entire festival schedule was running about ninety minutes ahead of the schedule.
Simultaneously at Simhadwar Swotriya Brahmins (temple Purohit) performed “homa” and consecrated the three rathas after Kanakmundis were fixed atop the chariots.
Earlier Daita servitors worked most part of the Sunday night to fix Chhenapatta (body armours) to the deities to minimise the stress during the Pahandi.
At about 7 AM Daita servitors conducted Pahandi of Balabhadra followed by Subhadra and then Lord Jagannath.Apart from the Trinity, Madanmohan, Ramakrushna and Sudarshan were also escorted to chariots. The Pahandi was completed by 0930 hrs.
Thereafter Swami Neeschalananda Saraswati,the Sankaracharya of Gobardhan peeth along with his disciples climbed onto rathas and offered prayers.
At about 10.40 AM Gajapati Dibyasingh Dev came in a decorated Palanquin called "Mehena" from his palace and performed Arati, Bandapana, rajnitee, sprinkled holy water on the ratha decks and performed Chherapahanra (sweeping on the deck of Rathas around the deities with a broom) and offered prayers.
Soon after the Gajapati returned to his palace,the servitors fixed Sarathis (charioteers), wooden horses and fashioned ropes before pulling began.
As per the standard operating procedure (SOP) issued by the state government for the second consecutive year the festival was organised in adherence to Covid protocols.
Over four thousand RT-PCR tests were conducted on servitors, temple officials, police and scribes and those with Covid negative reports were allowed to participate in the grand event.
Since servitors would only pull the chariots to their destination, Gundicha temple administration has made operational twenty first aid centres along the 3 km stretch of Badadanda.
As per Apex court directive only 500 servitors pulled a chariot maintaining social distance and wearing masks.
About 65 platoons of police forces were deployed for the fete while a 24 hour curfew has been imposed in the town from July 11th night till to prevent devotees coming to Badadanda.
All the roads linked Puri and internal roads connected with Grand road were sealed and security personnel kept a close vigil from the rooftops of buildings located alongside the Grand road.
Sri Jagannath Temple Chief Administrator Dr.Krishan Kumar thanked the servitors, the residents of Puri and all those engaged in the construction of the chariots besides the officials for their full support for the smooth conduct of the rath yatra.He said all the three chariots reached their destination before the sun set.
The residents of Puri and those staying along the grand road watched the rath yatra on television as the authority had clamped curfew and appealed to the residents not to move out of their house or go to the roof top .The residents watched the festival on TV sitting in their home in view of covid pandemic.(UNI)