Lakhs of devotees throng return Rath Yatra in Puri

Devotees take part in the Bahuda Rath Yatra or 'Return Car Festival', in Puri, Odisha, Friday, June 12, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Lakhs of devotees gathered in the Odisha temple town of Puri on Friday to take part in Bahuda Yatra or the return Rath Yatra of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra, the three presiding deities of the main Puri temple. The festival is also popularly known as the Return Car Festival.

The festivity took off in the morning hours with the traditional Pahandi Bije or the shifting of the three deities from Sri Gundicha temple, where they had a nine-day long sojourn, to their respective well-decorated chariots known as Nandighosha, Taladhwaja and Darpadalana.

After this and several other rituals on the three chariots, the deities began their return journey to the main temple. The Rath Yatra of the three deities or their annual journey from the main temple to Sri Gundicha temple, considered to be their birthplace, was celebrated on July 4.

The three deities, however, will not be shifted to the sanctum sanctorum of the main Puri temple immediately. They will remain on their respective chariots for a couple of days to have a number of important and colourful rituals which include the hugely popular Suna Besa which will be held on Saturday.

During Suna Besa, the three deities will be adorned with gold ornaments. Tonnes of different types of gold ornaments will be taken out from the temple treasury known as Ratna Bhandara to dress up the three deities, amid tight security.

Puri is expected to witness a huge gathering on Saturday. “Sometimes Suna Besa attracts more devotees to Puri than even the Rath Yatra and Bahuda Yatra”, said a Puri district administration official.

Adequate security arrangements have been made for a peaceful and incident-free Suna Besa celebration. There was also sufficient security arrangement in the temple town on Friday for the Bahuda Yatra. Friday’s festival was by and large incident-free at the time of writing this story.

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