Bhubaneswar, June 29: Lakhs of devotees converged on Odisha’s temple town of Puri Friday to witness the homecoming festival of Lord Jagannath and two other deities in the Bahuda Yatra.
Despite mild rainfall, more than four lakh people have thronged to the beach town, about 56 km from here, Laxmidhar Pujapanda, public relations officer of the temple administration, told IANS.
Authorities expect the number of devotees to swell further to about a million as the weather is conducive.
Most of the rituals were performed ahead of the schedule. The ceremonial procession of the deities known as Pahandi – carrying the deities out of the temple to the chariots – was earlier scheduled at 12 noon. However they were held about two hours earlier, Pujapanda said.
The Bahuda Yatra marks the return of Lord Jagannath, elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra from the Gundicha temple to the main Jagannath temple about three km away, both in Puri.
The return festival is held nine days after the annual Rath Yatra, which marks the journey of the three deities from the 12th century Jagannath temple in three decorated wooden chariots to Gundicha temple.
The rath yatra is held on the second day of the waxing moon during the month of Ashadha (June-July) of the Indian calendar. The deities return to their abode in the decorated chariots, which thousands of devotees pull with the help of ropes amid chanting of hymns.
A glimpse of the deities on the chariots during the Rath Yatra and Bahuda Yatra is considered to be very auspicious.
The state government has made elaborate security arrangements with about 8,000 policemen deployed across the town to maintain law and order and prevent any untoward incident.
Bomb detection and disposal squads and fire tenders have been engaged to meet emergencies. The Coast Guard has stationed a ship in the Bay of Bengal close to the Puri coast, and intensified patrolling along the sea route.