Power, gymnastic displays during Ahmedabad rathyatra (Lead)July 4th, 2008 - 9:25 pm ICT by IANS
Ahmedabad, July 4 (IANS) The 131st annual rathyatra began here Friday with over 1,000 devotees pulling the beautifully decorated chariots of Hindu god Jagannath, his brother Balaram and their sister Subhadra, and musclemen from local `akhadas’ (gyms) giving displays of their power and skills on the sidelines. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the rathyatra after prayers. He said: “Bhagwan Jagannathji rathyatra has important significance for us. In the state 150 rathyatras are taken out and today (Friday) Bhagwan Jagannath is doing parikrama to see the people’s happiness and sorrow.”
The yatra passed through various parts of the city, including a Muslim majority area where policemen were deployed in strength.
During the yatra, musclemen from 30 `akhadas’ (local gyms) showed their skill. A coconut was kept on a man’s head and was smashed with a stick. Another man lay on a heap of broken glass face down and over him stood another man. Acrobats and gymnasts too displayed their skill and dexterity.
Last year, local leader Balkrishna Govindbhai Patel, alias Jaggabhai, died at Saraspur after he fell down from an elevated platform while addressing the yatris. In his memory Friday a water station was set up to provide free drinking water.
Rathyatra in Ahmedabad is the one of the grandest events in Gujarat. The festival is set to have originated from Jagannath Puri temple in Orissa.