Puri: After a long wait, the Lord of the Universe has come out of his Ratna Singhasana inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple along with His divine siblings to give darshan to his devotees as he began his annual nine-day sojourn.
For the first time in decades, the annual Rath Yatra is being held in the absence of devotees as per the restrictions imposed by the Government for COVID-19 pandemic. However, millions of devotees across the country are glued to television sets in their respective houses watching the annual extravaganza.
As per schedule, Pahandi I(ceremonial procession) of the deities began at 7 AM today. Amidst sounds of cymbals and drums, the servitors escorted Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Sudarsana from their abode to their respective chariots. The Pahandi ritual was concluded around 30 minutes ahead of the schedule time of 10 AM.
Earlier in the morning, the ‘Mangala Aalati’ was performed at around 3 AM followed by rituals like ‘Mailama’, ‘Tadapa Lagi’, ‘Abakasha’, ‘Gopal Ballava’, ‘Sakala Dhoopa’ and ‘Ratha Pratishta’. All the rituals were completed by 7 AM.
After the deities were seated atop their respective chariots, Madan Mohan Bije ’ was completed before 10 AM, following which ‘Chita Lagi’ ritual was held.
Later, ‘Chhera Panhara’, a major ritual of the annual festival, was held between 10.55 AM to 11.45 AM. As per the ritual, Puri Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb performed the ceremonial sweeping of the three chariot floors with a golden broom. After that, servitors attached the horses to the three, following which pulling of the three chariots began.
It is pertinent to mention here that after days of logjam for conduct of the annual car festival in view of COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court yesterday gave nod to the Odisha government for the same. As per the restrictions, each chariot will be pulled by not more than 500 people, including security personnel and there will be an interval of one hour for pulling of each chariot.
“Each of those who is engaged in pulling the chariot shall maintain social distancing before, during and after the Rath Yatra. The State Government shall maintain a record containing details of all those who have been allowed to participate in the Rath Yatra or the rituals connected therewith along with details of their medical conditions after testing,” the order said.
After the SC’s nod, as many as 1143 servitors involved in the Rath Yatra underwent COVID-19 test.
Besides, the state Government imposed complete shutdown in the district with effect from 8 PM yesterday. The enforcement will remain in force till 2 PM on June 24. All entry points to Puri, including airport, railway stations and bus stands will be closed during the period of Rath Yatra festival.