Bhubaneswar: Three majestic wooden chariots carrying Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra rolled on the grand road of Puri as the annual Rath Yatra was held, for the first time ever, in the absence of devotees on Tuesday.
However, lakhs of devotees across the country were glued to television sets in their houses to watch the annual extravaganza as the lord of the universe began his nine-day sojourn to Gundicha Temple.
After the performance of all rituals inside the Jagannath Temple in the morning, the servitors escorted Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Sudarsana from their abode to their respective chariots amid the blowing of conches and beating of cymbals.
The ceremonial procession of the deities is known as “Pahandi”.
The three deities were taken atop of the three traditionally decked up chariots – Nandighosa (for Jagannath), Taladhwaja (for Balabhadra) and Darpadalana (for Subhadra).
Later, Puri Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb performed ‘Chhera Panhara’, a major ritual of the annual festival. As per the ritual, Puri Gajapati performed the ceremonial sweeping of the three chariot floors with a golden broom.
With the performance of all rituals, the three gigantic chariots were pulled on the grand road.
The chariots were pulled to Gundicha temple, which is around 3 km away from the main Jagannath temple.
Lord Balabhadra’s chariot was the first one being pulled from the entrance of the Srimandir towards Gundicha temple.
Taladhwaja, the chariot of Lord Balabhadra, started rolling on Bada Danda (grand road) amidst chanting of hymns, blowing of conchs and the beating of gongs and cymbals.
Then, Darpadalana, the chariot of Devi Subhadra, started rolling on Bada Danda.
Lord Jagannath, the cynosure of all, came on his chariot Nandighosa to give Darsan to the devotees amid the chanting of ‘Jai Jagannath’.
Unlike usual practice, when lakhs of devotees jostle with each other to pull the chariots, a limited number of servitors and police personnel got the opportunity to pull the chariots this year.
Following the Supreme Court guidelines, this year, no more than 500 people including servitors and police personnel were allowed to pull the chariots.
Prior to this, they were tested for COVID-19.
In order to avoid gathering, the administration has imposed curfew in Puri district from 9 PM on Monday to till 2 PM on Wednesday to hold Rath Yatra without devotees by adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.