Odisha: Overcrowding of chariots back in focus after Lord Balabhadra’s fall

Due to delay in subsequent rituals, the deity had to stay there for nearly an hour.
Rath yatra
Rath yatra

BHUBANESWAR: The falling of Lord Balabhadra’s idol on servitors during the ‘Adapa Bije Pahandi’ on Tuesday has yet again put focus on one of the biggest concerns during Rath Yatra - overcrowding of the three chariots.

Even as the temple administration mandates the presence of less than 100 persons on the chariots including servitors, ‘ghantuas’, temple staff and police during Rath Yatra, the guidelines were violated with impunity during the ceremonial procession of the three deities to the ‘Adapa Mandap’ of Gundicha temple from the chariots this year.

Every year, the temple administration releases SOP for Rath Yatra and Bahuda Yatra. This year’s SOP stated that after ‘Chhera Pahanra’, only sevayats related to Rath Yatra rituals, some police officials and ‘ghantuas’ were to be present on the chariots. Accordingly, 60 servitors were supposed to be present on Lord Balabhadra’s Taladhwaja, 50 on Devi Subhadra’s Darpadalana and 70 on Lord Jagannath’s Nandighosha. This apart, 14 ghantuas (who play cymbals) on Taladhwaja, 12 on Darpadalana and 16 on Nandighosha were to be present during the pulling of chariots.

However, during ‘Adapa Bije Pahandi’, not less than 200 servitors of various nijogs including, Daitapatis, their ‘sebaks’ and non-servitors were present on each chariot while ghantuas (who play cymbals) were stationed below the charamala (steps to the chariot).

Senior servitor of Daitapati Nijog Durga Dasmohapatra, who was also caught in the melee, said a limited number of well-built sevayats are roped in for Pahandi.

“However, a large number of young servitors and non-servitors are now getting atop the chariot just to be seen on TV and making reels. When all of them rush to take part in Pahandi, a slightest mistake can lead to a mishap, as it could be seen yesterday,” he said.

The mishap occurred when the ‘Chhateni’ (cloth rope used to hold the deity back) slipped from the head of Lord Balabhadra due to the rush, resulting in the deity slipping from the ‘Hansa Pata’ to fall on the servitors.

Sources said the deity was taken down the pedestal (singhasana) of the chariot and placed on Hansa Pata (a sloping platform in the front) after fixing Tahia. Due to delay in subsequent rituals, the deity had to stay there for nearly an hour. And when servitors began the Pahandi amidst the rush, the Chhateni slipped.

Dasmohapatra said if security of the deities is compromised owing to presence of a large number of servitors on the chariots, the Daitapati Nijog will be forced to take extreme measures in the next Rath Yatra.

Jagannath Swain Mohapatra, who is the chief Badagrahi of Lord Jagannath, said the Daitapatis do not have the power to execute the SOP, although they are responsible for the deities’ safety.

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