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Jul 10, 2013 at 02:45pm IST

Gujarat: Modi performs 'Pahind Vidhi' puja, flags off Jagannath Rath Yatra

Ahmedabad: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has continued the tradition of performing the 'Pahind Vidhi' puja for the 12th year. The ritual is a symbolic cleaning of the path for the rath yatra of Jagannath. "I am fortunate that I get the opportunity time and again to be at Jagannath's feet," Modi said as he flagged off the yatra on Wednesday. He is the first Chief Minister to have performed the traditional ceremony for the 12th time, a trustee of the temple said.

"Ahmedabad's Jagannath temple rath yatra is famous world over. Since the last 136 years this tradition is going on and once again Jagannathji is out on a (nagar charya) city tour to give his glimpse to the people," Modi said.

"All of us should pray to Jagannath that this nation should move ahead towards peace, sadhbhavna (goodwill), unity, delight and prosperity. "The monsoon season has begun and with the blessings of Jagannath, I pray that the entire country receives a good rainfall so that our farmers, villages and the poor can benefit," he added.

The rath yatra entourage will pass through different parts of the city and cover a distance of 14 kms. The rath yatra will travel through some sensitive areas of the city like Kalupur, Prem Darwaja, Delhi Chakla, Dariyapur and Shahpur in the old city.

Tight security arrangements have been put in place in and around 127 different localities of the city, from where the procession will pass. The yatra halts at Saraspur, where the local people offer 'Maha Bhoj' to the entire entourage of devotees of Jagannath. The chariot festival is celebrated on the second day of Sukla Paksha (waxing cycle of moon) in the month of Ashadh, popularly known as Ashadhi Bij. It is now celebrated as 'Lokotsav' of Gujarat.

Apart from Ahmedabad, similar yatras will be held at about 140 places across Gujarat, Modi wrote on his blog. Elaborate security measures have been made to ensure peaceful passage of the rath yatra, in which lakhs of devotees from the city and outside would participate.

There is heavy deployment of police and Central Armed Paramilitary Forces for the event. In addition to the UAVs, 20 Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras have been installed at various places. Fourteen paramilitary companies - BSF (6), RAF (4), Central Reserve Police Force (2) and Central Industrial Security Force (2) will be deployed in Ahmedabad to prevent any untoward incidents, officials said. Eight teams of Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS), too, are part of the security arrangements.

Two DIGP-rank officers, 19 superintendents of police, 46 deputy superintendents, 160 inspectors, 100 sub-inspectors, 1,400 head constables and constables, two platoons of women police constables and 25 SRP companies have been brought in for deployment from outside the city.

(With additional information from PTI)