Puri, Jul 4 (UNI) The nine-day sojourn of the presiding deities of Jagannath temple--Lord Jagannath, Lord Balavadra and Devi Subhadra-- began here this morning amid chanting of 'haribol' and clanging of cymbals.
Lakhs of devotees thronged the piligrim city and converged at the 3-km long ''bada danda''(grand road) from the Lions Gate of the 12th century edifice to the Gundicha temple to witness the grand annual car festival.
Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balavadra, and sister Devi Subhadra were offered ''gopal bhog''(breakfast) before being taken out from the ''Ratnavedi'' of the sanctum sanctorum in a ceremonial 'pahandi bije' to their respective decorated chariots parked outside the temple.
Hundreds of temple servitors took the deities on their shoulders from the temple amidst blowing of conch shells through Ananda Bazar and the ''baishi Pahacha'' to the Lions Gate amids securitymen carrying automatic weapons.
As per the rituals, Lord Balavadra was first taken out of the 'ratna vedi' and installed in the chariot called 'Taladhawaja' through the ceremonial 'pahandi bije', followed by Devi Subhadra to the 'Darpadalan Chariot'.
Lord Jagannath, called 'kalia' by lakhs of devotees, was the last one to be taken out and installed in the 'Nandighosh' chariot.
The devotees thronged the Lions Gate for a glimpse of the three presiding deities boarding the chariots to begin their nine-day sojourn to the Gundicha temple.
The authorities have made elaborate security arrangement for the festival.
As many as 54 platoons of Orissa State Armed Police force were deployed in the holy city to control the surging crowd of over 600,000.
The roof-top of all buildings located on either side of the 'bada danda' from the Lions Gate to the Gundicha temple was packed with devotees since early this morning.
All lanes and bylanes leading to the grand road were also packed with the devotees as they tried to enter the ''bada danda'' for a 'darshan' of the deities on the chariot.
Temple sources said after the three deities were installed in the chariots, 'gajapati' of Puri Dibyasingha Deb conducted the 'chera panhara'(cleaning the three chariots with a golden broom).
The chariots would be pulled one after another by the devotees on the grand road to their final destination to Gundicha temple where the deities would stay for nine days before returning to their original abode through 'Return Car festival'.
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