Million devotees brave scorching heat for Puri chariot festival (Lead) (With Image)

June 24th, 2009 - 9:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Puri, June 24 (IANS) Nearly one million devotees, braving the scorching heat, gathered in Puri town of Orissa to join the annual 11-day “rath yatra” (chariot festival) of Lord Jagannath, which began Wednesday, and to have a glimpse of the deity.
“All the rituals were performed ahead of schedule and the ‘rath yatra’ passed off without any trouble,” public relations officer of Jagannath temple administration Laxmidhar Pujapanda told IANS.

He said three gigantic chariots carrying the idols of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra would be pulled by the devotees in Puri. The town recorded a temperature of 33.8 degrees Celsius Wednesday. However, in other parts of the state temperatures hovered over 40 degrees Celsius.

“Although temperature has remained low here compared to other parts of the state, the humidity level is 80 percent,” officials in the Bhubaneswar Met office said.

Every year, idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are taken from the Jagannath temple to another shrine called Gundicha in Puri during the 11-day festival.

The chariot of Lord Jagannath reached Gundicha temple around 6 p.m.

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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