Amidst tight security cover, lakhs of devotees from across the country congregated at this pilgrim city to witness the nine-day sojourn of the presiding deities of the Sri Jagannath temple.
Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balavadra and their sister Devi Subhadra, left their original abode and went to the Gundicha temple, on their respective decorated chariot on the three km long Grand road as chants of ‘haribol’ and clanging of cymbals rented the air.
Over eight lakh devotees converged at the three-km long ‘bada danda’ (grand road) from the Lions Gate of the 12th century edifice to the Gundicha temple to witness the grand annual world famous car festival.
Earlier in the day, Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balavadra and sister Devi Subhadra were offered ‘gopal bhog’ (breakfast) after necessary rituals before being taken out from the ‘Ratnavedi’ of the sanctum sanctorum in a ceremonial ‘pahandi bije’ to their respective well-decorated chariots parked outside the temple.
The temple servitors took the deities on their shoulders from the temple amidst blowing of conch shells through Ananda Bazar and the ‘Baishi Pahacha’ to the Lions Gate under tight security.
The chariots – the red and yellow ‘Nandighosha’ of Lord Jagannath with 16 wheels, red and green ‘Taladhwaja’ of Balabhadra with 14 wheels and red and black ‘Devadalana’ of Devi Subhadra -with a dozen wheels were lined up outside the temple near the Lions Gate.
As per rituals, Lord Balavadra was first taken out of the ‘ratna vedi’ and installed in the chariot called ‘Taladhawaja’ through the ceremonial ‘pahandi bije’, followed by Devi Subhadra to the ‘Darpadalan Chariot’ and lastly Lord Jagannath, fondly called as ‘kalia’ by lakhs of devotees, was installed in the ‘Nandighosh’ chariot.
The devotees broke into frenzied shouts of ‘Haribol’ and ‘Jai Jagannath’ as soon as they witnessed the deities coming out of the temple to board the chariots to begin their nine-day sojourn to the Gundicha temple.
Devotees waiting for hours to have glimpse of the pahandi were in trance as soon as the lord of the universe Jagannath came galloping out of the Simhadwar swinging his giant floral tiara to the tunes of the musical concerts of cymbal, Ghantas and bugle performed by the servitors.
Odissi dancers and martial artists led the Pahandi procession. “Huluhuli”, “jai Jagannath“ and other religious hymns rented the atmosphere. Devotees were seen jostling among themselves to witness the Pahandi.