Ahmedabad: Lord Jagannath`s rathyatra, the 133rd edition of which is scheduled on July 13, has been a tradition for over a century in the city and has in recent years become a symbol of communal harmony with people of all communities participating with equal enthusiasm.
The 14 km route of the rathyatra passes through communally sensitive areas of the city like Kalupur, Prem Darwaja, Delhi Chakla, Dariyapur and Shahpur, which have witnessed incidences of violence in the past, with instances of slogan shouting and stone-pelting during rathyatra.
But over the past 25 years, the journey has been more or less peaceful, said Congress MLA from Shahpur area Gyasuddin Sheikh.
"The period between 1985-92 were the most violent period for the city during rathyatra. But since then, people, from both the communities, Hindus and Muslims, have come
together to maintain peace in sensitive places," Sheikh told a news agency.
"Since last three years, there has been no `Janta Curfew` in the minority dominated areas. Which shows that people of all communities are equally enthusiastic about the
rathyatra," he said.
Janta curfew is like self-imposed curfew when people of the area from where the rathyatra passes do not come out of their houses.
"On the contrary since last three years we have seen that even women of the minority community come out in the balconies of their houses to see the procession," another MLA of Kalupur Farukh Sheikh said.
Even Muslim community leaders greet the rathyatra in their respective areas with mementos and flowers. They also provide water and refreshment to devotees pulling the rath of Lord Jagannath and people participating in the procession, Farukh, who belongs to the Congress party, said.
"Rathyatra has become sort of a festival in many of the minority dominated areas which constitute over 60 percent of its 14 km route," he added.
Trustee of the Lord Jagannath temple here Mahendra Jha said that this was a festival for people of all communities.
"Leaders of the Muslim community every year offer a memento to the head priest of Jagannath temple Mahant Rameshwardasji," he said.
This year too Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, as per tradition, would do symbolic clean up of the road, on which chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balram and their sister
Subhadra will start their journey from the temple on July 13 morning.
The yatra will have participation of 18 decorated elephants, 98 decorated trucks apart from three big decorated chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balram and their sister
Subhadra, which will be pulled by 1,000 devotees.
Besides this, more than 2000 saints from across the country will also take part in the yatra procession.
The rathyatra of Lord Jagannath, which is the biggest in the state, would be organised under robust security arrangements with over 14,000 policemen deployed across the
city along with 4,500 home guards.
Forty cameras have been set up for continuous video recording and monitoring of the rathyatra, while 200 specially trained men by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) would screen the yatra route before it passes through the area.
Four Bomb Disposal Squads (BDS), nine Quick Response Teams (QRTs), and 27 mobile Police Control Room (PCR) vans would also be deployed for the rathyatra in the city.