ibnlive » India

Jul 03, 2011 at 09:00am IST

Annual Jagannath Rath Yatra begins today

Puri: The fervour of the annual Jagannath rath yatra has begun in Puri. Lakhs of devotees gather in the holy city to pull the three chariots of Lord Jagananth, Lord Balbhadra and Goddess Subhadra from Jagannath to Gundicha temple.

But amidst the excitement is the threat to the festival from extremist groups. The district police have put in place elaborate security which includes the extensive deployment of CCTVs, bomb squads, the Rapid Action Force & 5000 security men.

SP Puri Amitendra Nath Sinha said, “There is general threat perception that we have got from our headquarters and intelligence department. So we have prepared ourselves accordingly and in case of any major mishap there are special teams in place to handle them."

But it is unlikely that the threat will mar the spirit of the procession. 45 year old Kushal Tewari for instance has been camping in Puri for the past few days with her family to experience the magic of the rath yatra.

“The festival connects us to God. We have come to meet Lord Jagannath. There is great deal of satisfaction to have the darshan of Lord Jagannath on Rath yatra day. I am so excited," said a devotee.

Even people from outside India are in Puri like Richard a young associate professor from Holland.

"I have heard from my Indian friends a lot about this festival and always wanted to see it. I am enjoying this as this is something which you can't see in Europe," said Richard.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is also at the 400 year old Lord Jagannath Temple where he pulled the chariot carrying the deity. The chariot festival always takes place on the second day of Sukla Paksha, a day that marks the waxing cycle of the moon. The fervour of the annual jagannath rath yatra has begun in Puri as well.

The history of Lord Jagannath Rath yatra in Puri is more than thousand years old. And all these years what has not changed much is its religious fervor, tradition, rituals and grandeur. Perhaps that is the reason why this festival is still very popular among its devotees which attracts more than a million of them every year to Puri on this occasion.