Puri: The majestic Jagannath Rath Yatra begins in Puri on Thursday. Amidst threats from extremist groups and heavy security deployment, more than 10 lakh devotees are expected to witness the colourful festival.
After two months of hard work, the three majestic chariots of Lord Jagannath are all set to roll out in Puri. Seventy-four-year-old Jaya Devi has been too weak to walk for the past three years but that didn't stop her from travelling all the way from Nayagarh, carried physically by her grandson, just to get a glipmse of Lord Jagannath.
"My legs are not working but I always come to have a darshan of the Lord on Rath Yatra. That gives me lot of peace and satisfaction. I forget my pain after coming here," said Jaya Devi.
"It is believed that those who witness the Jagannath Rath Yatra are freed from the cycle of birth and death and attain salvation," said Ramchandra Dasmahapatra, priest on Jagannath Chariot.
With over 10 lakh devotees expected to attend the yatra, security is a serious concern. There is an intelligence alert of possible threat from extremist groups. Eight thousand security men have been deployed in Puri including coast guard patrols off the coast.
"Yes, the threat perception is real and we are fully prepared to face any such untoward incidents," said SP, Puri, Anup Sahoo.
In last four years there have been three incidents of stampede during the rath yatra in Puri in which eight people have died. This time the Puri district administration has claimed that elaborate precautionary measure have been taken to prevent such untoward incidents. The nine-day rath yatra will end on June 29.