PURI: Even as crores of devotees around the world waited for the big day, the first Nabakalebar of the Lord Jagannath and other deities had a smooth start with all rituals completed before time.
The Pahandi of the deities which was scheduled at 10 am started before time at 8.30 am. Lord Balabhadra, Lord Jagannath and Devi Subhadra had got into the chariots by 12.30 pm. Chariot pulling is expected to begin in another hour, by 2 pm.
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The pilgrim town of Puri today witnessed unprecedented security measures as lakhs thronged the Grand Road to have a glimpse of the Lords during the Pahandi. So far, the Rain God has also been benevolent.
Governor SC Jamir, chief minister Naveen Patnaik, cabinet ministers, MPs, MLAs and other VIPs have already arrived to witness the grand festival. Puri was virtually overtaken by security personnel as the religious event is expected to draw record footfall. Under a multi-layered security blanket, the administration imposed restriction on entry of vehicular traffic into the holy town from Friday evening.
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The Grand Road was sanitised as a whopping 10,000 policemen, drawn from different agencies, were deployed to keep an eye on the nook and cranny of the holy town. Leaving nothing to chance, the State Police has divided the entire Grand Road into 17 sectors and four commandant-ranked officers have been put in charge.
An IG-ranked officer has been assigned the charge of the 3 km Bada Danda which plays venue for the Rath Yatra.
Even though elaborate measures have been put in place to ensure a smooth, hassle free event, reports of people being hospitalised due to heat and humidity have also come in. Official sources said about 100 people have been hospitalised so far.