A million devotees throng Puri for chariot festival

July 4th, 2008 - 9:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Puri (Orissa), July 4 (IANS) Over a million devotes from across the globe gathered here to catch a glimpse of the three Hindu deities whose idols are taken out in a procession as part of the annual Rath Yatra (chariot festival), which began Monday despite flooding in the region. Laxmidhar Pujapanda, part of the Jagannath temple administration, said over one million devotees had travelled to Puri to participate in the festival during which chariots carrying idols of lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra are pulled through the town.

“All rituals are on time although some morning rituals were delayed by 10 to 15 minutes. The sky is cloudy and it rained for 10 minutes in the morning. The weather is conducive for the festival,” Pujapanada said.

An official of the East Coast Railway said about 200,000 devotees from West Bengal and 100,000 from Orissa head to Puri every year for the 11-day festival. Although the number may be less this time, 50 trains have been running from West Bengal to Puri.

Pujapanda said more than 30,000 devotees had already arrived from West Bengal using various routes.

Every year, the three deities are taken from the 12th century Jagannath temple, some 56 kms from state capital Bhubaneswar, to another shrine called Gundicha in the same town.

Thousands of devotees pull these chariots with the help of four ropes tied to each chariot. The chariot of lord Jagannath is called Nandighosh, that of Balabhadra is Taladhwaja and Subhadra’s is Padmadhwaja.

The annual procession is a celebration of Jagannath’s journey from Dwarka to Kurukshetra along with Subhadra and Balabhadra some 5,000 years ago.

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