The 140th rath yatra of Lord Jagannath today commenced in the city amid tight security as lakhs of devotees flocked the 15-km journey route to catch a glimpse of the deity. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel performed 'Pahind Vidhi'- a symbolic ritual of cleaning the way for the chariots.
The chariots of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balbhadra and sister Subhadra, then started the journey from the 400-year-old Jagannath Temple in Jamalpur area this morning. Before the rath yatra commenced, BJP president Amit Shah performed 'mangla aarti' of the deities in the temple during the early hours.
The procession comprises 18 elephants, 101 trucks, seven cars, members of 30 'akhadas' and 18 bhajan mandalis. It is taken out every year on 'Ashadhi Bij', the second day of Ashad month, as per the Hindu calender.
The procession will move through some communally sensitive areas like Jamalpur, Kalupur, Shahpur and Dariyapur. To thwart any untoward incident during the rath yatra, over 20,000 police and paramilitary personnel as well as NSG commandos have been deployed along the route. For the first time, a company of National Security Guards (NSG) has been deployed to guard the yatra.
The procession generally stretches upto 1.5 kms and winds its way through the 15-km route in the walled city before returning to the Jagannath Temple after about 12 hours.