Elephants to stage a comeback at Puri rathyatra

The colourful mega religious event, popularly known as the Car festival, is scheduled for July 13. Nearly eight lakh devotees, both within the country and outside, are expected to participate in the annual event.

“During the first co-ordination committee meeting for this year’s rathyatra, participants had strongly demanded the re-introduction of the Gaja Seba in the festival. Therefore, we have already started negotiation with some of the elephant owners in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. Let us see what happens”, the chief administrator of the Puri temple, Pradipta Kumar Mohapatra, said.

Since the beginning of the rathyatra, Gaja Seba – where three well-decorated elephants escort the three deities of the Puri temple when they make their journey on the colourful Raths (chariots) – had always remained a major ritual.

However, the Gaja Seba finally came to a grinding halt in 2002 when Laxmi, a trained elephant from Uttar Pradesh died on her way back home after taking part in the Puri festival.

Animal rights activists had reacted strongly over the incident which had forced the Jagannath temple administration to stop the ritual.

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