The 140th Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath here concluded peacefully as the three chariots returned to the Jagannath temple late evening after covering around 15 kilometre-long route, which passed through the communally sensitive walled city area amid tight security. City dwellers thronged the route in large numbers to welcome the chariots of Lord Jagannath, his brother Lord Balbhadra, and sister Subhadra, as it started its journey from the 400-year-old temple in Jamalpur area early this morning before coming back to the temple at around 8:30 pm. BJP president Amit Shah and his family members performed ‘mangla aarti’ of deities early this morning before the Yatra commenced. This was followed by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel performing ‘Pahind Vidhi’ – a symbolic ritual of cleaning the way for the chariots, at around 7 am.
The procession, led by 18 elephants and having 101 trucks carrying tableaux showcasing Indian culture and different deities of Hindu religion, attracted thousands of devotees who turned up to welcome it at different points along the route. The procession comprised 18 elephants, 101 trucks, seven cars, members of 30 ‘akhadas’ and 18 bhajan mandalis. It is taken out every year on ‘Ashadhi Bij’, the second day of Ashad month, as per the Hindu calender. The procession moved through some communally sensitive areas like Jamalpur, Kalupur, Shahpur and Dariyapur.
At Dariyapur, a Muslim-dominated area, community leaders, led by Congress corporator Hasan Lala, released pigeons as a message of peace and offered traditional welcome to the procession by felicitating the chief priest of the Lord Jagannath temple, Dilipdasji Maharaj. Lala and other Muslim leaders also gifted a memento of a cow and calf to the Mahant as a mark of harmony and friendship between the two communities. “We gifted this memento of a cow and a calf as a symbol of brotherhood and communal harmony. Even Dilipdasji was very happy with this gift, as he said it was very unique. There was a time when Hindus were afraid of coming to this area. But, with the efforts of both the communities, those days have gone forever,” Lala told reporters.
At Nagina Pol in Saraspur, also a locality with predominantly Muslim population, women from the community offered prayers as the procession reached there. They said their prayers were meant to show solidarity to their Hindu brethren. Members of Muslim community also participated in the procession, with a tableau showing a man wearing cow mask being fed by a Muslim wearing a skull cap. Other eyecatching tableaux were based on the themes of cow protection, save girl child, and about soldiers who laid down their lives in the line of duty. At a point along the route, BJP MP Paresh Rawal, city mayor Gautam Shah and health minister Shankar Chaudhary also offered prayers to the deities and felicitated the chief priest. The procession was guarded by over 20,000 police and paramilitary personnel as well as NSG commandos were deployed along the route.
For the first time, a company of National Security Guard (NSG) had been deployed to guard the procession. State minister of state for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja too participated in the procession along with top police officials. He said the Gujarat government was committed to ensure an environment of communal harmony for peaceful celebration of festivals. Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra processions were also taken out in other cities and towns in Gujarat including Bhavnagar and Vadodara.