Return car festival held in Puri amid tight security

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Puri, Jul 1 (PTI) 'Bahuda Jatra' or Lord Jagannath's return car festival was held here on Tuesday amid tight security with the administration having imposed curfew in the pilgrim town to avoid mass congregation of devotees in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The curfew, which came into effect at 8 pm on Monday, will remain in force for 48 hours.

The trinity -- Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath -- embarked on their return journey to Sreemandir from Gundicha temple around noon, much ahead of the scheduled time, as servitors blew into the conch shells and played on cymbals with 'Gotipua' performers dancing on the Grand Road.

Bahuda Jatra is observed as the divine siblings end their annual nine-day sojourn to their birth place, and make their way back to Shri Jagannath temple on wooden chariots.

The three-kilometre-long Grand Road wore an empty look as local residents, too, were barred coming out on the streets during the day.

Similar restrictions were put in place on July 12 during the Ratha Yatra.

The state government has arranged for the live broadcast of the events on TV channels.

Sources in the SJTA said around 8,000 people, including servitors, police personnel and officials, have undergone RT-PCR test before the 'Bahuda Jatra'.

Only the ones who tested negative were allowed to participate in the festival.

Over 60 platoons of police personnel have been deployed at several locations in the seaside town to prevent congregation of people. All entry points to the holy town have been sealed and hotels, lodges and guest houses shut in order to stop people from gathering on roof tops.

Lord Jagannath was ensconced in the largest of the three chariots -- the 45-feet high 'Nandighosh', Lord Balabhadra in 44-feet high 'Taladhwaja' and Subhadra in 43- feet high 'Darpadalan'.

Krishan Kumar, the chief of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), said, 'The rituals have begun ahead of the schedule. We are optimistic that the chariots will reach their destination early.' PTI AAM RMS RMS

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