Ahmedabad, July 13 (Calcutta Tube) The annual chariot festival of the Hindu god Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra was celebrated with gaiety and religious fervour here Tuesday with Chief Minister Narendra Modi joining in the festivities.
Flagged off by Modi in the morning amidst chanting of hymns, the ratha yatra wound it’s way on a 22-km-long route through the congested roads of Ahmedabad.
The 133rd Jagannath Rath Yatra started from the Jagannath temple at Jamalpur locality at 7 a.m. with Modi performing the ‘pahandi’ ritual (carrying the deities from the temple to the chariots) and cleaning the Lord’s chariot with a golden broom. He then pulled the chariot’s ropes to see it on it’s way on the long ‘nagarcharya’ journey.
The chariots halted at the heavily decked Lord’s ‘mausar’ (mother’s home) at Saraspur where over a lakh people joined the gods at mealtime before commencing the return journey.
The procession comprises 18 decorated elephants and 18 trucks displaying various ‘akhadas’ and ‘bhajan mandalis’. Before the start of the yatra, tribals performed the traditional folk dance at the temple.
A huge crowd thronged the temple and then joined the procession as it began its journey under the watchful gaze of 14,000 police personnel who had spread out through the city.
A tiered structure of around 600 assistant sub-inspectors and sub-inspectors, 275 inspectors, 77 assistants commissioners, 31 deputy commissioners watched over by five joint commissioners of police marks the security blanket thrown over Ahmedabad to ensure the peaceful conduct of this annual religious event of Gujarat.
‘We worked out the security for the event with care and foresight, since Ahmedabad has for long been in the crosshairs of terror networks,’ said Joint Commissioner of Police Satish Sharma.
The arrest of two suspected activists of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) from here Monday night had heightened security fears. But officials said the arrests of the two with arms and ammunition had not dampened enthusiasm for the festival.
‘As far as altered security perceptions were concerned, the only change was that anti-sabotage vigilance had been intensified after the SIMI members’ arrests,’ said Sharma.
CCTV cameras were set up in the whole route of the yatra, which included sensitive areas like Kalupur, Dariapur and Shahpur.
A hallmark of this year’s rath yatra was the trendy headgear and clothes worn by the deity.
‘It is an eclectic mix of the old and the new with lace and zari, besides silk and cotton and with lots of embroidery,’ said Sunil Soni, who has been designing the clothes for almost a decade now.
Police said that similar rath yatras taken out in various cities and towns of the state all passed peacefully. Devotees gathered in large numbers in cities like Vadodara, Surat, Jamnagar and Rajkot for the festival.