Over ten lakh devotees witnessed the world famous annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath held here on Wednesday with fanfare, religious fervour, enthusiasm and a spirit of camaraderie amid a high alert and tight security in the wake of serial blasts at Bodh Gaya.
Devotees from across the country and abroad descended on the pilgrim town of Puri in Odisha to have a glimpse of the presiding deities of the 12th century shrine.
"The festival was held peacefully in a smooth manner. There was no untoward incident" Director General of Police Prakash Mishra said.
However, a sevayat (servitor), Bhramar Bhoi was seriously injured as one of his feet came under a wheel of Lord Jagannath's chariot, Nandighosh, officials said.
A tight security net was thrown in the pilgrim city in view of the recent serial blasts at Bodh Gaya with installation of CCTV and spy cameras allover with over 7000 policemen keeping close vigil.
Personnel of Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS), Rapid Action Force (RAF) and sharp shooters were posted at vital points while the Coast Guard kept a vigil on the sea.
Devotees poured into the sea side town since early morning to watch the ceremony and pull the three majestic and colourful chariots on the 'bada danda', the grand avenue.
A host of VIPs including Odisha Governor SC Jamir and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik witnessed the proceedings.
Descending from the Ratna Sinhasana, the bejewelled throne, the three deities were taken out of the temple down the 22 steps known as "baisi Pahacha" through the Lion's gate in an elaborate royal ritual called "Pahandi" as devotees and sevayats jostled to have a glimpse and touch them.
In a rhythmic style, the deities moved forward step by step to the accompaniment of beating of ghantas and kahalis and blowing of conch shells.
The temple was thrown open to public only on July 8 for "Naba Jaubana Darshan" of the deities as they remained confined in "Anasara Pindi" (recovery chamber) after the grand bath on "Snana purnima" on June 23.
At first Sudarshana, the celestial wheel of Krishna-Vishnu, was taken out and placed in the chariot of Subhadra followed by Balabhadra and finally on lord Jagannath's.
Ready to carry the deities for their annual nine-day sojourn to the Gundicha temple, about two km away, the three majestic huge wooden chariots draped in layers of red, black, green and yellow cloths waited outside the temple.
The pulling of the chariots by estactic devotees were watched by millions including a host of VVIPs and dignitaries while buildings on both sides of the grand avenue were occupied by thousands of devotees to pay obeisance to the deities and also vying for a glimpse.
Braving the scorching heat till mid-day and later rains in the afternoon, devotees thronged the 'Bada Danda' to watch the grand proceedings as security cordons were put in place around each chariot and policemen had a trying time controlling the surging crowd.