Cymbals clashed and chants of “Hare Krishna” filled the air as chief minister Mamata Banerjee pulled the chariot to kick off the Rath Yatra celebration organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) on Thursday.
Mamata reached the Park Circus seven-point crossing, from where the chariots began their journey, around 12.30pm and stood with folded hands before the idols of Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra.
Prayers done, Mamata broke a coconut and pulled the chariot rope to mark the beginning of the annual journey of the three deities. “I seek blessings to usher in peace, prosperity and happiness and to awaken conscience in this beautiful world,” the chief minister said amid applause from those gathered. She also lit a lamp to inaugurate the 41st Calcutta Rath Yatra before leaving.
From Park Circus, the chariots rolled along Suhrawardy Avenue and CIT Road towards Moulali. The procession then turned left and moved down SN Banerjee Road and JL Nehru Road to reach Outram Road off Park Street. The chariots would remain there for the next nine days till Ulta Rath on June 29.
The traffic police had to draw up an elaborate diversion plan as cars stood bumper to bumper from Bridge No. 4 to Parama rotary in the afternoon.
As hundreds followed the chariots, Sealdah-bound vehicles trying to take CIT Road were diverted through AJC Bose Road. Many Esplanade-bound buses were also diverted while cars heading south from Sealdah were asked to take Creek Row. The procession ended around 6pm.