PURI, INDIA, July 8, 2024 (India): Hundreds of thousands of people pulled giant chariots from the 12th-century Jagannath temple in Puri towards Gundicha temple, around 1.5 miles away, as Rath Yatra festivities began in Odisha on Sunday. The yatra started around 5.20 pm after Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalanada Saraswati visited the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra with his disciples and the Puri’s titular king completed the Chhera Pahanra (chariot sweeping) ritual. India’s President, Droupadi Murmu, Odisha Governor Raghubar Das, the CM and Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan symbolically started the yatra by pulling the ropes of Nandighosh — the chariot of Lord Jagannath. The yatra stopped after moving a few yards, and will resume on Monday morning in a exception from the tradition.

The sibling Deities ascended their respective chariots after the completion of the three-hour-long Pahandi ritual at 2.15 pm. Jai Jagannath chants, sounds of gongs, conches and cymbals reverberated through the air at the Singha Dwar of the Puri temple as Lord Sudarshan was first escorted to Darpadalan, the chariot of Devi Subhadra. Following Lord Sudarshan, Lord Balabhadra was taken to His Taladhwaja chariot. Goddess Subhadra, the sister of Lord Jagannath and Lord Balabhadra, was brought to Her Darpadalan chariot in a special procession by servitors. Finally, Lord Jagannath was taken to His chariot in a ceremonial procession amid the sounds of gongs. In the Pahandi ritual, Deities are brought from the temple to the chariots. Around a million devotees are estimated to have converged here for the annual festival. While most of the devotees were from Odisha and the neighboring states, many from abroad also joined in what is considered one of the largest religious processions globally, officials said.

More on the yatra at source.