Ahmedabad: The annual Jagannath Rath Yatra began on Thursday morning. Union Home Minister Amit Shah and his wife Sonal Shah offered prayers at the historic Jagannath Temple in Gujarat's Ahmedabad and participated in the mangal aarti to start the 142nd annual Rath Yatra procession.
The annual yatra will conclude at Shree Gundicha temple. The devotees will pull the grand chariots on the road covering a nearly 2.5 km distance, said an official of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration.
The deities return to Shree Mandir only after completion of the nine-day yatra on the same chariots called 'Bahuda Yatra' (return car festival).
The state administration has made elaborate arrangements for the smooth and peaceful conduct of the festival. It would be a challenge for the administration to accommodate the tourists in the pilgrim town, which was devastated by cyclone Fani that hit the coastal district on May 3.
Inspector General of Police S. Priyadarshi said that elaborate security arrangements have been made for the festival.
Two additional Director General of Police (DGP), five Inspector General of Police (IGP) and scores of officers have been tasked with supervising the arrangements.
Besides, over 10,000 police personnel have been deployed while CCTV cameras have been installed on the grand road for the security of devotees, said police.
The Indian Coast Guard will look after air and sea surveillance during the festival.
The BJP president reached Ahmedabad on Wednesday as part of a two-day visit to Gujarat, his first after joining the Union Cabinet, as he inaugurated various projects.
He landed at the Ahmedabad airport in the afternoon where he was welcomed by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, his deputy Nitin Patel and other party MLAs.
Shah inaugurated a newly-constructed flyover at Income Tax Crossroads, which is 805 metres long and over 18 metres wide, in Ahmedabad. The estimated cost of the flyover is Rs 57.5 crore. Two parking spaces have been constructed below the flyover, with a capacity for 175 four-wheelers and 450 two-wheelers at a time.
After inaugurating the flyover, Shah proceeded to attend an event organised at Dinesh Hall in Naranpura where he dedicated a community hall and a library to the general public, besides five offices for revenue department employees in Gandhinagar.
Later, he attended a felicitation programme of party workers of all seven Assembly segments falling under his Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency.
Shah is expected at the historic Jagannath Temple with his family early Thursday to participate in the Mangla Arti to start the 142nd annual Rath Yatra procession.
(With IANS inputs)