Bangalore, July 10: It is an entire new mood in the cities of Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Dibrugarh; it is Rath Yatra after all! The entire state of Orissa, however, stands apart from the entire nation this day as people throng the religious town of Puri to catch a glimpse of the giant chariot and their favourite deity Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra.
An integral part of the Indian culture, it is also celebrated in different parts of the world like New York City and Toronto. With poppadams and sweet gourmet, this festival is much awaited by the children and people with a sweet tooth.
However, things have taken a sombre turn after the Bodh gaya blasts. Security has been pepped up in various cities to curb terror attacks during the festival.
Puri: The temple town of Puri witnesses huge footfall every year from other parts of the world. Lakhs of people gather around the huge chariot carrying the deities to get a chance to pull it to the Gundicha temple. This time, around 10 lakh devotees are expected to participate in the celebrations.
"Pulling the chariot is considered auspicious among the people. However, this can risk lives too as many people have reportedly been crushed in the flurry," said one of the temple officials. "We would ensure that nothing of this sort happens this time as we have deployed special crowd management teams," he further added.
But authorities have an added responsibility now, especially after the Bodh Gaya blasts. The huge gathering could be a soft target for terror attacks and scanning through the milling crowd would be a Himalayan task.
The newly organized Special Tactical Unit of the Odisha police was deployed a day prior to the festival to scan through the area for possible threats. "One of the world's longest surviving public celebrations, Rath Yatra should be terror-free and mishap-free and we have been working hard to ensure that," said Arvind Padhee, the chief temple administrator.
Marine and Air surveillance have been deployed, along with vehicle frisking and manual checking. NO vehicles are being allowed to park enroute the rath yatra. Close to 35 CCTV cameras have been installed and the ID proof of the visitors is being scanned thoroughly.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi performs puja of Lord Jagannath on the eve of the annual ‘Rath Yatra' in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.
A motorcycle stuntman jumps over four men during a practice session for the century- old Rath Yatra celebrations in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik inspecting the ropes to be used for Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra, while reviewing the preparations in Puri on Saturday.
Devotees hold Kalash on their head near Sabarmati river during "Kalash Yatra" ahead of the "136th RathYatra" in Ahmedabad on Sunday.
Foreign devotees take part in the Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra, organised by ISKCON in Dibrugarh on Friday.
Devotees take part in Koniamman Temple Rath Yatra festival in Coimbatore on Wednesday.
Vadodara: Police has stepped up security measures here with CCTV cameras and special task forces, especially since the chariot will be pulled through certain sensitive areas in the old city. Moreover, the police has refused to allow the ISKON temple authorities to hire an Elephant to draw the chariot. "An Elephant at the middle of the road can cause problems in security surveillance, " said one fo the senior police officials.
Two troops of State Reserve Police (SRP) and one company of Rapid Action Force (RAF) from Mumbai will be on duty during the celebrations today. "Five police officers from other cities will also join our police force that will be on guard during the yatra. We have installed 12 additional CCTVs on the yatra route apart from the 29 regular CCTVs. The entire route will be constantly monitored," said Satish Sharma-the city police commissioner.
Strict vigilance is being maintained by a Quick Response Team (QRT), an anti-sabotage squad and an armored truck would be on duty. An additional police commissioner, five ACPs, four DCPs, 116 police sub-inspectors, 25 police inspectors, 1,550 police constables, 35 women cops and 500 Home Guards have been deployed for security.
Apart from this, devotees are being checked thoroughly before entering the temple premises.
Kolkata: With reports of Anwar Hussain Malik, the main accused of the Bodh Gaya blasts being arrested from BBD Bag, the security ring has been tightened even more for the Rath yatra celebrations. While CCTV cameras are a must, the state administration has deployed 2000 law and order forces. Plain-clothed police with advanced security devices would be placed randomly to check any untoward situation. The customary checks and frisking would also be there.