Bhubaneswar: Over 200,000 devotees from various parts of the country converged in Orissa`s temple town of Puri Wednesday and witnessed the bathing ritual of three deities that precedes the famous chariot festival or Rath Yatra, an official said.
The deities -- Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra -- were taken out of the sanctum sanctorum of the 12th century Jagannath temple in a ceremonial procession to the snana mandap - a bathing platform inside the temple complex.
As part of the ritual, the deities were bathed with 108 pitchers of aromatic water drawn out from a temple well known as the golden well.
"The bathing ritual started at 8.05 a.m. and ended within 20 minutes," Laxmidhar Pujapanda, the temple`s public relations officer, told reporters.
"More then two lakh devotees witnessed the event, despite rains lashing the city, he said.
The Rath Yatra is the grand culmination of a series of celebrations involving the deities. This year, the festival will be held July 3-11.
The festival marks the annual journey of the three deities from the Jagannath temple, 56 km from here, in three separate decorated wooden chariots to another temple about two km away.
The deities return to their abode in the same splendidly decorated chariots which thousands of devotees pull with the help of ropes. The festival is known as Bahuda Yatra.