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Touch of emotion marks bahuda

Puri, July 7: Her cheeks streaked with tears, her voice quivering with emotion, Rebati Joshi, a retired schoolteacher from Sundargarh, strained her eyes trying to focus them on the obsidian face of Lord Jagannath as he emerged from the Shree Gundicha temple in pahandi (ceremonial procession) along with His siblings.

Emotion gripped Joshi as the holy Trinity began the journey back to their 12th century abode at the other end of the famous Grand Road in the town.

“I don’t know whether I will be there to see the next rath yatra. I don’t want to miss out on anything this time. The Lord is looking so beautiful today. The sight of Him will wash away all my sins,” she said in an emotion-choked voice watching the bahuda (return car festival) proceedings from her vantage point on the roof of a building near Shree Gundicha.

The sexagenarian widow was not the only one experiencing such emotions as the deities were placed on their colourful chariots and the return car festival, marking the end of their nine-day sojourn, at Shree Gundicha, commenced. Raghu Nandan Das, a college student and an ardent devotee of Lord Jagannath, appeared desperate to touch his chariot. “Last year, I could not touch his mount, but this time, I am not going to go back disappointed,” he said looking determined.

Then there was Mala Patra, who came all the way from Delhi for the bahuda yatra. “I am really lucky to have touched the chariots though the temple administration has placed a restriction on climbing onto them to hug the deities. I am happy,” she said.

Devotional fervour reached a crescendo as the crowd of around three lakh people that thronged Grand Road chanted “Hari bol” and “Jai Jagannath” to the frenzied beating of gongs and cymbals. The deities took their place on their decked up mounts bringing the pahandi that began around 10.45am to an end. This was followed by chhera pahanra or the ritual sweeping of the chariot decks by Gajapati Dibyasingh Deb, the scion of Puri royal family. The king, in view of the controversy barring devotees from climbing the chariots, came with a skeletal staff but went up the chariots alone for the ritual.

However, the stand-off between the daitapatis (servitors) and the temple administration on the issue took an ugly turn when a local resident passed some obscene remarks at Daitapati Niyog president Ramakrushna Das Mohapatra. When he continued, the servitors ganged up and beat him up. Police brought the situation under control. They rescued the man from the daitapatis following instructions from law minister Arun Sahu, who was present.

“We were going to submit a memorandum to the law minister, condemning the statements of some civil society members against us when this person made uncharitable remarks,” said Das Mohapatra. The incident, however, alerted the administration and it ensured that bahuda yatra passed off peacefully thereafter. Later, members of the Daitapati Niyog also submitted a memorandum to the new director-general of police, Sanjeev Marik.

The first to roll was Taladhwaja, the chariot of Lord Balabhadra, the eldest of the Trinity, around 3pm. The mounts of Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath followed. By evening, all the chariots had reached the Shree Jagannath temple, where a huge crowd awaited their arrival.

Security was tight on the 3-km stretch of Grand Road for the yatra with the administration deploying 104 platoons of state police apart from paramilitary forces, including two companies of the Rapid Action Force. Marik personally supervised the security arrangements.


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