With Rath Yatra celebrations resuming after a Covid-imposed hiatus of two years, devotees from across the country are arriving in the pilgrim town of Jagannath Puri. The Odisha Police claims to have made elaborate arrangements to provide “security and service” to the devotees coming to the coastal town for the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath and his siblings on July 1.
While the Rath Yatra is on July 1, the Trinity of Lord Jagannath and his divine siblings Goddess Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra were dressed in the “Nabajoubana Besha” on Wednesday, after they remained in the ‘Anasara Ghara (sick room)’ for 14 days. Many devotees made a trip to the famous Puri Jagannath temple to get a glimpse of the deities in their youthful vigour.
It is not mandatory for pilgrims to carry a Covid-negative test report or vaccination certificate this year. Wearing a mask is, however, a must.
Local media reports said the footfall on Wednesday was not as high as the temple authorities were expecting. Quoting sources in the Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), around 40,000 devotees had visited till 7 pm, while they had expected a crowd of 50,000 to 60,000 pilgrims.
“Since we had made prior announcements that a limited window will be assigned for both ticketed darshan and ‘Sahana Mela’ (public darshan) for Nabajoubana Besha, people restricted their visits to those hours only,” temple public relations officer Jitendranarayan Mohanty was quoted as saying in a report in The New Indian Express.
The report also said hotels and restaurants had expected over 3 lakh devotees to descend on the town, but the actual number is much less.
Meanwhile, the city is all decked up for the festival.
Puri Railway Station all decked up on the eve of the divine Rath Yatra of Mahaprabhu Shri Jagannath ji. pic.twitter.com/topRm8wm9c
— Ministry of Railways (@RailMinIndia) June 30, 2022
Sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik and his team have created 125 sand chariots on the Puri beach, looking to break their own 2016 Limca Book of World Record when they made 100 sand chariots.
With the blessings of Mahaprabhu #Jagannath we have created 125 Sand Ratha at Puri beach for #RathaYatra. We break our own Limca book of world record of 2016 where we created 100 sand Rath. Jai Jagannath 🙏 pic.twitter.com/cI2mjWOlfx
— Sudarsan Pattnaik (@sudarsansand) June 30, 2022
5-Tier Security Arrangements Around Chariots
According to a PTI report, all arrangements for security, health services and traffic management are in place, and Odisha Director General of Police SK Bansal has reviewed them.
He told reporters earlier this week the security arrangement has also been made keeping in view of probable terrorist threats, the PTI report said.
A total of 180 platoons (1 platoon comprises 30 personnel) of police force and over 1,000 officers will be stationed in Puri, and there will also be tactical units, bomb disposal squads and Coast Guard personnel to ensure fool-proof security.
The police said the Coast Guard will be deployed in Bay of Bengal 20 nautical miles from the coast.
There will also be a five-tier security arrangement around the three chariots that will carry the idols from the Sri Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple, about 3 km away. The town itself has a three-tier security arrangement in place, divided into 10 zones and 29 sectors.
Odisha Health Minister NK Das has appealed to people who are suffering from cold, cough and fever not to visit Puri during the festival. Quoting the minister, the PTI report said about 10 lakh face masks will be distributed through the Odisha State Medical Corporation Ltd, and arrangements will also be there for rapid antigen tests of those who develop any Covid-19 symptoms.