PURI: The stage is set. The three chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra decked up in all splendour are parked in front of Srimandir, ready to take the Holy Trinity on their nine-day sojourn to Gundicha temple on Tuesday.
All roads led to Puri on Monday with lakhs of people making their way to the pilgrim city to participate in the Rath Yatra. It is expected that nearly a million devotees and visitors from across the country and abroad will congregate at Badadanda (Grand Road) for darshan of the deities and pulling the chariots.
Governor Ganeshi Lal, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, ministers and higher state government officials will participate in the festival. However, the severe heat wave conditions prevailing in the state have become a cause of major worry for the administration. With the Pahandi and chariot pulling to be held in the open under direct sun with temperature rising to around 35 degree Celsius and high humidity, the administration has prepared itself to deal with the risk of sun stroke for the mammoth gathering of devotees.
Hundreds of volunteers, fire services and police personnel have been deployed to sprinkle water on devotees at crowded places. Lakhs of water bottles have also been arranged for distribution among the people. This apart, the health facilities have been readied for treatment of heat stroke affected in case of any such eventuality.
As per the Rath Yatra schedule this year, the rituals will begin early on Tuesday at 6 am with priests performing Mangalarpan, Mailum, Tadap Lagi, Abakash, Surya Puja, Dwarpal Puja and Rosahoma. The Pahandi procession of the deities to their respective chariots will begin by 8 am and expected to be completed by 11 am.
Puri king Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb will perform the Chherapahanra (ceremonial sweeping of the chariots) service at around 2.30 pm and thereafter the ascribed wooden horses will be fixed to the chariots. The chariot pulling by the devotees is scheduled to commence by 4 pm.
The police and administration have made elaborate arrangements for smooth conduct of the chariot pulling festival. As many as 170 platoons of police with over 6,000 policemen have been deployed along the temple and Badadanda. In order to prevent devotees from entering the cordon area and climbing atop the chariots, Rapid Action Force (RAF) and Odisha Police personnel will be deployed in adequate numbers.
CCTV cameras have been installed along the Badadanda and other important places like railway station and bus stand to monitor crowd movement from control room. Around 35 police aid posts have been set up in Puri and highways to assist tourists. Apart from dial 112, visitors can also reach out to the police on tourist helpline number 6370-967-100 for assistance.
A comprehensive traffic mobility plan is also being implemented. An ambulance corridor alongside the Badadanda will be created. About five hundred life guards are deployed along the Puri beach for rescue and to prevent drowning in sea.
The railway has also deployed a good number of RPF and GRP personnel for the festival. Union Railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Monday reviewed the arrangements made by the railway for the festival.