PURI: Putting all the bitterness and hurt due to the Nabakalebar bungling behind, a million hands went up in air in unison and the Grand Road reverberated with cries of complete surrender to the Lord as the clock struck 12.20 pm on Saturday. Some let out the shriek of joy, some wept in ecstasy while some wore prayers on their lips.
A sea of humanity, bathed in sweat and devotion, had been waiting since morning to catch a glimpse of the God they so consider one of their own. And, Lord Jagannath, after acquiring a new body, was just installed on his majestic grand chariot “Nandighosha” decked in the ritualistic colours of yellow and red.
The very sight of the Lord got the emotions overflowing. Sixty-eight year old Diptimoyee Sengupta knelt down and prostrated in front of the chariots, so did 20 something Rupesh Jha and a 100 others who were fortunate enough to be inside the cordoned area. They were united by faith with the several lakh others who were waiting with bated breath to witness their first ever Nabakalebara Rath Yatra, also the first of the millennium.
Every inch of the three-kilometre-long Bada Danda was occupied but that did not deter the lakhs who swarmed the lanes and bylanes of Puri to reach the Grand Road which plays venue for the annual sojourn of the three deities. When the “rathas” started to roll at 3.35 pm, after Gajapati King of Puri Dibya Singh Deb concluded the ritualistic “chhera panhra” (sweeping), a few lakhs were still on their way to the Grand Road to take part in the chariot-pulling exercise. Old, infirm, young and children alike, there was no stopping them from taking part in the dance of devotion.
It all started early in the morning. Much to the surprise of those who had converged - some said, it was not a surprise at all - the rituals got off to a start at a frenetic speed. While the “pahandi” was scheduled to start at 10 am, it had commenced at 8.30 am. By 10.45 am, both Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra had been installed on their respective chariots following the ritualistic procession. Soon a huge uproar made it clear that the favourite God, Jagannath, was on his way from his abode, the 12th century shrine.
With chanting of hymns, beating of cymbals and drums and decked up dancers and servitors, the Lord emerged from the temple and showed himself to his devotees after a gap of 45 days. By 12.20 pm, He was installed on his chariot and many thought the annual journey of the Gods will be ahead of schedule that had been fixed at 3.30 pm. But that was not to be.
A good two hours passed with no activity at all. There was no official word on the delay. After the Puri King conducted the ceremonial “chhera panhra” (sweeping of chariots) and they were ready to roll by 3.35 pm.
The phase of inactivity in the meantime fuelled rumours of varied kinds including differences among servitor groups.
Binayaka Das Mohapatra, the Biswabasu, though refuted any conflict between groups. “All the servitors groups worked in coordination and ensured that the rituals were ahead of schedule,” he said.
While the chariot pulling started with gusto, Taladhwaja, Lord Balabhadra’s chariot, which led the way moved slowly. “Nandighosha” of Lord Jagannath too was stuck on the way for a while.
Although the administration and police tried to ensure that the chariots reach their destination by sunset time at 6.19 pm, only Taladhwaja managed to reach near the Gundicha Temple, falling short by 100 metres. Devi Subhadra’s chariot stopped at Badashankha while “Nandighosha” made its night halt near Balagandi. The three chariots will resume their journey tomorrow morning.