Puri/Ahmedabad: The annual Rath Yatra began in Puri, Odisha and Ahmedabad, Gujarat on Thursday.
Amidst heavy security, Lord Jagannath began his journey from Shreemandir to the Gundicha temple in Puri today. In the meantime, the Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra began from the 400-year-old Jagannath temple in Jamalpur area in Gujarat.
Tight security arrangements are in place for over 10 lakh devotees, who are expected to witness the grand Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath in Puri.
More than three lakh devotees have already reached the Odisha`s temple town of Puri for the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra, officials said.
The ceremonial procession of the deities known as Pahandi - carrying the deities out of the temple to the chariots - started at 9.35 am, Laxmidhar Pujapanda, the public relations officer of the temple administration, told a news agency.
The festival marks the annual journey of the three deities from the 12th century Jagannath temple in three splendidly decorated wooden chariots, pulled by devotees, to the Gundicha temple, around three km away.
The festival ends nine days later when the deities make their way back home to the Jagannath temple. The return journey, known as Bahuda Jatra, will be organised on June 29.
The security is of major concern as there is an intelligence alert of possible threat from extremist groups.
The state government has made elaborate security arrangements with about 8,000 policemen deployed across the town to maintain law and order and prevent any untoward incident, district Superintendent of Police Anup Kumar Sahoo said.
Hundreds of policemen have been deployed at the beach and about half a dozen closed circuit security cameras have also been installed at various places, he said.
Similarly, bomb detection and disposal squads and fire tenders have been engaged to meet emergencies. The Coast Guard has stationed a ship in the Bay of Bengal close to the Puri coast, and intensified patrolling along the sea route, he said.
In Gujarat, as per tradition, Chief Minister Narendra Modi, performed the `Pahind Vidhi` of Rathyatra (symbolic path cleaning on chariot of Lord Jagannath) after which the annual rath yatra of Lord Jagannath began.
State Chief Minister also pulled the chariot of Lord Jagannath out of the temple premises, an age old tradition here.
"After Puri, Ahmedabad`s rath yatra in the country and world has turned out to be centre of attraction. Thousands of saints arrive in Gujarat to participate in this rath yatra," Modi told newsmen.
"I pray to Lord Jagannath that Gujarat which has been successful in attaining new heights of development with peace, unity and sadhbhavana should prosper and progress more with the lord`s blessing," he said.
"On the occasion of Rath Yatra, I pray at Lord`s feet that even this year the rains should be good during the monsoon," Modi said. The 14-km route of the procession will pass through communally sensitive localities in the city like Kalupur, Prem Darwaja, Delhi Chakla, Dariyapur and Shahpur, amidst robust security arrangements.
Elaborate security arrangements have been made for the 135th Rath Yatra. Around 20,000 policemen including homeguards, SRPs and para-military will be deployed on the entire 14-KM yatra route along with other security arrangements.
For the first time GPS and hidden cameras will be used by the Gujarat police.
(With PTI inputs)