Devotees brave scorching heat for Puri chariot festival (With Image)

June 24th, 2009 - 12:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Puri, June 24 (IANS) Nearly 300,000 devotees, braving the scorching heat, gathered in Puri town of Orissa to have a glimpse of lord Jagannath at an 11-day Rath Yatra (chariot festival) which began Wednesday.
“Despite the heat wave, nearly 300,000 devotees have already arrived. We are expecting a gathering of about a million by (Wednesday) evening,” public relations officer of Jagannath temple administration Laxmidhar Pujapanda told IANS.

He said the deities of lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra would be pulled by the devotees in three gigantic chariots in Puri town that recorded a temperature of 34.1 degrees Celsius Tuesday. However, other parts of the state recorded temperatures of over 40 degrees.

“Although temperature has remained low here compared to other parts of the state, the humidity level is very high,” Pujapanda said.

Every year, idols of lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra are taken from the Jagannath temple to another shrine called Gundicha in Puri during the procession.

The chariots of the three deities are pulled by the devotees with the help of ropes. The annual procession is a celebration of Jagannath’s journey from Dwarka to Kurukshetra along with Subhadra and Balabhadra some 5,000 years ago.

A senior district administration official said more than 3,000 policemen have been deployed in and around Puri to ensure safety of devotees and smooth conduct of the festival.

“About 50 beds have been reserved for the devotees and adequate medicines kept in the city hospital to deal with the heat wave conditions,” the official said.

Meanwhile, sand artist Sudarsan Patnaik has created a five feet high sand sculpture in the city’s golden beach with beautiful images of the three deities using coloured sand with a message - “Help Us Fight Global Warming”.

Patnaik said the students of his sand art institute devoted about eight hours and used 15 tonnes of sand Tuesday to create the images.

“More than a million people come to Puri during the Rath Yatra. We made the images to create awareness among them on global warming,” he told IANS.

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