Rath Yatra celebrated in Bengal

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Kolkata, Jul 7 (PTI) Rath Yatra was celebrated with reverence to Lord Jagannath and gaiety across West Bengal on Sunday with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee participating in the festival and paying obeisance to the deity.

She pulled the ropes of the chariot of Lord Jagannath at ISKCON Rath Yatra here, and said, "We live together with all religions".

Chariots with idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra were pulled in various places of the state with the largest gatherings being in Kolkata and at Mahesh in Hooghly district.

The Rath Yatra at Mahesh, the oldest in the state, was participated in by devotees from various places.

Braving rains, thousands of devotees gathered to participate in the festival in Kolkata, dancing and chanting 'Jai Jagannath' along with the monks of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

"Jai Jagannath to all of you throughout the world, all my ISKCON brothers and sisters and devotees on this auspicious day," the chief minister said.

Banerjee performed 'arati' with candles and offered prayers to the deities of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra before pulling the ropes of the chariot of Lord Jagannath at the start of the ISKCON Rath Yatra along with the devotees and monks.

"We live together with all religions. Jagannath Dev is very sacred to all of us," Banerjee, who attends the ISKCON Rath Yatra every year, said.

The chief minister also said a large number of people from the state participated in the Rath Yatra festival in Odisha's Puri, as well as in Hooghly's Mahesh and Kolkata and other places.

Rath Yatra is also synonymous to fairs at many places in Bengal, mainly in the rural areas, where children and the elders participate to make the most of the good things on offer, from various joyrides to snacks like jalebis and fried papad, some customary eatables on the occasion in the state.

Stating that a temple, which is a replica of Puri's Jagannath temple, in the seaside tourist town Digha is almost complete, Banerjee said that it will be inaugurated after the Durga Puja.

"Rath Yatra will be held at Digha from next year," she said, addressing the devotees.

Dance performances by women were also held in front of the ISKCON Rath Yatra chariot in south Kolkata before it was pulled by the monks and the devotees through different streets of the metropolis.

The chariot will be stationed at Maidan in the heart of the city for devotees to have darshan till the return of the chariot after eight days. PTI AMR BDC