The 145th edition of the Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra passed off peacefully in the city on Friday amid heavy police deployment as lakhs of devotees lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the deity.
The level of enthusiasm was especially high this year as a full-fledged procession was taken out after a gap of two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Members of the Muslim community gave a warm welcome to the chariot procession when it passed through Dariyapur and Shahpur in Old City, areas which are considered ”communally sensitive”.
But nearly a dozen people were injured when the roof of a wooden cabin on which they were perched collapsed along the route of the Rath Yatra, police said.
In 2020, a symbolic Rath Yatra had been organised on the premises of the Lord Jagannath temple after the Gujarat High Court denied permission for the usual public procession in view of the COVID-19 threat. Last year, only three chariots and two other vehicles took part without usual festivities as no other vehicles, singing troupes, elephants or decorated trucks were permitted.
On Friday morning, chariots of Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Balbhadra and their sister Subhadra commenced their journey along the 18-km route after Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel performed ‘Pahind Vidhi’, a symbolic ritual of cleaning the path for the Raths, at the 400-year-old Jagannath temple in Jamalpur area.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah visited the temple around 4 am and took part in the ‘Mangla Aarti’, a tradition he has been following for the last many years.
More than a dozen decorated elephants, 100 trucks with tableaux and members of religious groups, akharas (local gyms) and singing troupes took part in the procession this year.
It moved through communally sensitive areas like Jamalpur, Kalupur, Shahpur and Dariyapur and finally came back to the temple late in evening after almost 12 hours.
Members of the minority community welcomed the chariots with garlands as the procession wound its way through Muslim-dominated areas. Children and women were seen waving white flags when the procession passed through Dariyapur.
To give a message of peace, the chief priest of the Jagannath temple, Dilipdasji Maharaj, released two pigeons after he was greeted by local Muslims in Dariyapur.
As per the tradition, he was offered a memento by local Muslim leaders. In return, the mahant donated Rs 5,100 to a local mosque in Dariyapur, said former corporator Hasan Pathan.
The chief priest and three chariots were accorded similar welcome in Shahpur area by local MLA Gyasuddin Shaikh and others.
The Gujarat government had deployed over 25,000 security personnel including those from Central Armed Police Forces such as the Rapid Action Force along the route.