Thousands of devotees have started thronging to pilgrim town Puri in Odisha as Lord Jagannath and his two siblings – elder brother Balabhadra and younger sister Subhadra – are ready for their annual nine-day Rath Yatra beginning on Thursday.
All roads are leading to the beach town as the stage is set for the annual chariot festival.
Three majestic chariots, Nandighosa (Lord Jagannath), Taladwaja (Balabhadra) and Darpadalan (Subhadra), have been kept ready in front of the 12th century shrine, which will be pulled by lakhs of devotees on Thursday.
The annual rath yatra, which will commence from Jagannath temple, will conclude at Shree Gundicha temple considered as the aunt’s place of the deities.
The devotees will pull the grand chariots on the road covering a nearly 2.5 km distance, said an official of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration.
The deities return to Shree Mandir only after completion of the nine-day Yatra on the same chariots called ‘Bahuda Yatra’ (return car festival).
The state administration has made elaborate arrangements for the smooth and peaceful conduct of the festival. It would be a challenge for the administration to accommodate the tourists in the pilgrim town, which was devastated by cyclone Fani that hit the coastal district on May 3.
Inspector General of Police S. Priyadarshi said that elaborate security arrangements have been made for the festival.
Two additional Director General of Police (DGP), five Inspector General of Police (IGP) and scores of officers have been tasked with supervising the arrangements.
Besides, over 10,000 police personnel have been deployed while CCTV cameras have been installed on the grand road for the security of devotees, said police.
The Indian Coast Guard will look after air and sea surveillance during the festival.