PURI: Over seven lakh devotees converged at the pilgrim town to witness the return car festival (Bahuda Yatra) of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra on Monday.
The deities, who began their homeward journey riding their majestic chariots after spending nine days in the Gundicha temple, reached the Lion’s Gate around 7.25 pm.
Despite high humidity, devotees waited at the exit gate (Nakachanadwar) at the Saradhabali from the morning to witness the ceremonial journey (Pahandi). As soon as the deities were brought out of Gundicha temple, hymns reverberated the area. The deities came out through the lengthy temple corridor with giant floral tiaras swinging on their foreheads – a scene that captivated devotees who jostled for a glimpse.
Prior to the return car festival, the Daita servitors spent the entire night fashioning the deities in ‘Chhenapatta’, a special armour to help them absorb the stress during the chariot ride. Early on Monday, after ‘Mangal arti’ and ‘Surya puja’, the deities were offered ‘Khichdi bhog’ before starting their journey that was advanced by an hour from the original schedule.
The ‘Pahandi’ ritual began by 10.30 am and was over by 1 pm. The ‘Chhera Pahanra’ ceremony, wherein Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb swept the deck with a golden broomstick, was over by 2.25 pm.
After the ceremony, the first rath ‘Taladhwaja’ of Lord Balabhadra rolled out by 2.57 pm, followed by ‘Darpadalana’ of Devi Subhadra at 3.25 pm.
Pulling of Lord Jagannath’s ‘Nandighosh’ started at 3.38 pm and it reached the Lion’s Gate at 7.25 pm.
On the way, the Trinity had ‘Podapitha’, a ceremonial baked item by their aunt, and then the Gajapati conducted ‘Laxminarayan Veta’ near his palace before the chariots were veered to their destination.