Puri set to celebrate two-day Rath Yatra after 53 years, President Murmu to be present

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Puri, Jul 6 (PTI) The seaside pilgrim town Puri is all set for smooth conduct of Lord Jagannath's annual Rath Yatra festival which will be a two-day affair from Sunday in 53 years.

Along with lakhs of devotees, President Droupadi Murmu is also scheduled to witness the Rath Yatra on Sunday. The state government has made special arrangements for her visit.

Officials said that the Odisha government has made elaborate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the festival which usually is organized in a single day. Some celestial arrangements have made it a two-day event which was last held for two days in 1971.

In a departure from tradition, some of the rituals related to the festival involving three sibling deities - Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra - will also be held in a single day on Sunday.

The chariots have been parked in front of the Lion's Gate of the Jagannath temple from where they would be taken to Gundicha temple where the Raths will stay for a week.

The chariots will be pulled by devotees on Sunday afternoon.

This year, the Rath Yatra, and related rituals like ‘Nabajouban Darshan’ and ‘Netra Utsav’ will be conducted in a single day - July 7. These rituals are generally held ahead of the Rath Yatra.

Nabajouban Darshan’ means youthful appearance of deities, who were behind the doors for 15 days, called ‘Anasara’ (quarantine), after ‘Snana Purnima’.

According to mythology, the deities fall ill due to excess bathing on ‘Snana Purnima’ and therefore remain indoors.

Prior to ‘Nabajouban Darshan’, the priests performed the special ritual called ‘Netra Utsav’ in which the eyeballs of the deities are painted afresh.

Meanwhile, the state government has made elaborate arrangements for smooth and timely conduct of the annual festival.

“With the cooperation from all stakeholders, all the rituals are going on smoothly. With the blessings of Lord Jagannath, all other rituals will also be conducted according to schedule,” Puri Collector Siddharth Shankar Swain said.

Puri SP Pinak Mishra said that 180 platoons (one platoon comprises 30 personnel) of security personnel of both the state and central governments have been deployed to look after law and order and crowd management during the festival.

A green corridor is kept ready to take anyone getting ill from the crowd to the hospital.

Artificial Intelligence-based CCTV cameras have been installed at Badadanda, the venue of the festival, and other strategic locations in the pilgrim town, said ADG (law and order) Sanjay Kumar.

Special security arrangements have been made for the President’s visit to the festival. While a VIP zone has been planned for the Odisha governor, chief minister, Union ministers and other dignitaries, a buffer zone has been planned for the President, Kumar said.

A dedicated team led by a senior SP rank officer has been formed to supervise the visit of Murmu to the pilgrim town, he added.

Expecting a crowd of 10 to 15 lakh, arrangements have been made by the fire service department.

Altogether 46 modern fire tenders have been deployed in various parts of the town and along the sea beach for the Rath Yatra, said DG, fire service, Sudhanshu Sarangi.

As hot and humid weather may prevail, water will be sprinkled on the crowd, he said. PTI BBM NN