Cyclone ravaged Puri gears up for Rath Yatra

Puri: The annual journey of Lord Jagannath at Puri is to be observed on July 4. The construction work of chariots started on Akshaya Tritiya following a ceremonial puja in front of the temple office on the Grand Road.

As per reports, all the necessary repair works of Shree Jagannath temple (Srimandir) in Puri will be undertaken on a war-footing and to be completed before the upcoming Rath Yatra.

In the Jagannath Rathyatra, three new chariots are constructed every year for Lord Jagannath, His elder brother Balabhadra and His sister Subhadra. The annual journey of the deities to their Aunt Devi Gundicha has been observed since the 12th century. The celebration goes on for nine days and at the end, the deities return to their abode. The return journey is called Bahuda Jatra.

However, Puri town that has been worst hit by cyclonic storm ‘Fani’ yet to recover from the damage. Nearly one crore and sixty-five lakh people of the state were adversely affected due to cyclone Fani. The state witnessed large scale destruction due to the cyclone.

Cyclone Fani is an unusual and unexpected one in the month of May, as the state normally experiences cyclones in the period of October-November. As Rath Yatra is barely two months left, the district administration will be on their toes to bring Fani-ravaged Puri to normal.

Puri, which is always full of life with visitors, has a deserted look and turned to a nearly ghost-town. Most shops are closed, and the electricity yet to be restored in some places. The well-known tourist destination is visited by thousands of people from different parts of the country on a daily basis. The main attractions are the Jagannath temple and the beach.

Meanwhile, the Jagannath temple administration is all ready for the ensuing nine-day Rath Yatra on July 4. It will be a testing time for the shrine officials and other government agencies to make preparations for the mega-festival in the wake of massive damage to infrastructures like electricity, telecom service, hospitals, water supply, and hotels.

“The damage all around can be realized. Still, we will pull out all odds for smooth conduct of the annual car festival. We hope that the damaged infrastructure will be restored before Rath Yatra. A team of ASI experts will inspect the Jagannath temple’s structure that suffered minor damage at a few isolated places,” said SJTT administrator Pradipta Mohapatra.

The height of Taladhwaja chariot (of Lord Balabhadra) will be 45 ft, Nandighosh (of Jagannath) 45.6ft and Devidalan (of goddess Subhadra) of 44.6ft. Nearly seventy-five carpenters have been engaged for the making of the iconic chariots. Besides, nearly 70 assistants (bhois), 10 blacksmiths, 22 painters, and some traditional tailors are helping the craftspersons in construction of the chariots.

Meanwhile, Jagannath Temple administration has started a 21-day Chandan Yatra of Lord Jagannath. To beat the heat, the representative idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra were brought out from the sanctum sanctorum to enjoy the cool voyage in Narendra pond, nearly 500 meters from the main temple. As both the pond and boats were affected by Fani, the administration arranged makeshift boats for the ritual of Chandan Yatra.

According to a senior district official, restoration of electricity and telephone lines is going on in full speed; it may take a month or two to restructure Puri.

“Our biggest worry is the massive destruction of hotels and Yatri Nivas centres in Puri. The Hotel industry will take several months to revive. Since lakhs of pilgrims will throng Puri during car festival, their accommodation will be a major challenge for us,” he added.

“We may set up temporary makeshift shelter homes, just as we did during 2015 Nabakalebara Rath Yatra, this time if hotels fail to render services. We will also ensure adequate supply for drinking water to the pilgrims,” the officer said.

The top cops admitted that the destruction caused by cyclone Fani poses a huge challenge for the district administration to conduct the festival.

Also read: Sabitri Puja Observed By Married Women Across The State

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