Puri: Lakhs of devotees from across the country and abroad descended on the pilgrim town of Puri on Sunday to witness Lord Jagannath's Nabakalebar "Bahuda Yatra", the return car festival of the deities, amid tight security.
Wrapping up their nine-day sojourn to Sri Gundicha Temple, the new idols of Lord Jagannath, elder brother Lord Balabhadra and their sister Devi Subhadra set off for their return journey to the 12th century shrine on three majestic wooden chariots.
A multi-layer security net was thrown over the seashore town amid heavy deployment of force to ensure smooth celebrations and prevent any untoward incident, a senior police official said.
The festivities were, however, marred by the death of a devotee after he fell unconscious while performing Sankitan during Pahandi ceremony of the Lords at Gundicha temple.
Several special rituals were performed before the deities journeyed out of the Gundicha temple to the three colourfully decorated chariots for the return journey as sound of "Jai Jagannath" rent the air.
The three deities were taken to the chariots in an elaborate royal ritual called 'Pahandi' to the beating of gongs, cymbals and blowing of conch shells as devotees and sevayats jostled to have a closer look.
Lord Jagannath was ensconced in the largest of the chariots, 45-feet high 'Nandighosh' which has 16 huge wooden wheels. The chariot of Balabhadra was the 14-wheeled 44 feet high 'Taladhwaja' and that of Subhadra known as 'Darpadalan' with 12 wheels and standing 43 feet high.
The Gajapati King of Puri Divya Singha Deb arrived from his palace for the 'Chhera Pahanra' ritual. He offered prayers to the deity and then swept the platforms with a golden broom and sprinkled flowers and fragrant water.
The deities would be decorated with "suna besha", golden attire, tomorrow on the chariots, which is expected to attract a large number of devotees.