Score of devotees pulled the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra as the nine-day annual Rath Yatra began with fervour in the city on Saturday.
The processional deities boarded the colourfully decorated chariots and began their journey to their aunt’s place. Prior to this, amid chanting of Vedic hymns and dances to the accompaniment of mridangas, conches and cymbals, the idols of the deities were taken out from the temple as part of the ‘Pahandi’ ritual before they were taken to the chariot. It was followed by ‘Chhera Panhara’, the ritual of sweeping of floor by noted dignitaries to send the message that ‘none is big before the Almighty’.
Utkal Sankrutika Samaj, Endowment Department and Visakhapatnam Steel Plant organised the festival separately. ISKCON celebrated the Rath Yatra, with ‘kolatam’—a popular form of folk dance. The three chariots was taken from the GVMC Gandhi statue to Gurajada Kalakshetram for the first time under a collapsible canopy.
Pomp and gaiety marked as a record number of people thronged the Rath Yatra organised by Utkal Sanskrutika Samaj, a socio-cultural organisation in the city as the chariot were pulled from Daspalla Hills to Gundicha Ghar near Shantiasram, the aunt’s place of the deities. The ‘Chhera Panhara’ was performed by Lal Saheb Pramod Bhanja Deo of erstwhile Dasapalla royal family.
“We have made elaborate arrangements for bhajans, keertans and prasad daily,” said Samaj president and Orissa Stevedores Ltd GM J.K. Nayak.
In I Town, where the city’s oldest Jagannath temple is located, a huge procession was taken from the Town Kotha Road to Turner’s Choultry by the Endowment Department. HRD Minister Ganta Srinivasa Rao, MLAs Vasupalli Ganesh Kumar, Panchakarla Ramesh Babu, Sri Kanaka Mahalakshmi temple EO Jyoti Madhavi and others participated.
Religious fervour marked the Rath Yatra at Ukkunagaram, the township of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. RINL CMD P. Raychaudhury, in traditional attires of the king, performed ‘Chhera Panhara’ with a golden broom.
The evening was vibrant with cultural programmes organised to mark the festival in the township by Nartaki Group from Odisha. An exhibition of handloom and handicrafts was organised on the occasion.
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