Puri: Administrative officials, health workers, volunteers, sanitary workers, and many good samaritans, who understand the virtue of ‘Service to Mankind Is Service To God’, emerge as the real heroes every year during the Rath Yatra festival in Puri.
In a stretch of roughly three kilometers, millions gather to pull the magnificent chariots of Holy Trinity and this brings risks of stampede, congestion and injuries with it. Feeling the pulse of the devotees, the local administration and welfare organizations swing into action in a bid to pump in a fresh lease of life in people.
Much ahead of the auspicious date when the deities begin their annual sojourn, the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), Puri district administration, Odisha Police, Odisha Fire Services, Health Department, Housing & Urban Development (H&UD), and various welfare organisations had pulled up their socks.
1.) SJTA & Puri District Administration
Newly appointed SJTA Chief Administrator Vir Vikram Yadav and Puri Collector Samarth Verma had been holding regular discussions with various stakeholders to finalise the modalities for conducting rituals of the deities starting from Snana Yatra to Niladri Bije.
As the festival was attended by lakhs of devotees after a gap of two years, Yadav led from the front to ensure that it is celebrated in a grand and incident-free manner. All rituals were conducted as per schedule, on time, thanks to the coordination among SJTA, servitors, and other stakeholders.
2.) Odisha Police
Odisha Police led by DG Sunil Bansal deployed as many as 180 platoons of police personnel in and around Puri for the Rath Yatra. Traffic arrangements and establishment of green corridor was crucial in order to provide service and security to the devotees.
Ahead of the Rath Yatra, the police conducted a mock drill of chariot pulling to deal with law and order situation, crowd management and stampede-like situations. The mock drill included the creation of a green corridor for ferrying patients to the hospital amid the crowd.
It was the green corridor which facilitated uninterrupted movement of the emergency vehicles. At least 160 people in distress were rescued and rushed to safety during the pulling of chariots. It was possible because of well-coordinated efforts among volunteers, police staff, stretcher-bearers, ambulance drivers, doctors and paramedics.
3.) Health Department
The Health and Family Welfare Department had left no stone unturned to ensure a safe festival. Eight ambulances facing the Jagannath temple had been queued up on one side of the Bada Danda.
There were at least 160 cases of people suffering from suffocation, dehydration, minor injuries and freak accidents on the sea beach as well. Fortunately, all of them resuscitate and discharged healthily from the district headquarters hospital. It was all very smooth and fast with 15 to 20 doctors and as many paramedics on duty.
4.) Odisha Fire Services
Managing the crowd, keeping them hydrated and ensuring that no untoward incident occurs, was the responsibility of a joint team led by senior officials of the Odisha Fire Service (OFS). DG Fire Services SK Upadhyay had informed that at least 39 fire tenders, rescue vans were deployed to soothe extremely humid climate in Puri.
The crowd was huge and ecstatic. Howver, the Firemen were calm composed and doing their jobs with all dedication, serving the pilgrims who had come to witness Rath Yatra after a two year hiatus.
This year during Rath Yatra, there were a record 1,400 volunteers from many oganisations like the Red Cross, St Johns Ambulance, etc. working selflessly restoring people’s faith in immortal humanity. They well understand that ever Benevolent God never wants devotees to suffer.
6.) H&UD Department
The Housing & Urban Development (H&UD) Department had also started a 24×7 control room for the benefit of tourists during the period from Gundicha Yatra to Niladri Bije in order to ensure maintenance of high standards of sanitation and cleanliness, uninterrupted drinking water supply and drainage arrangements.
Not to forget the role of the servitors who made the festival a success. The Rath Yatra can’t be complete without the servitors who perform the rituals of the deities starting from the chariot making process.
Different servitors entrusted with different duties perform important services on the occasion of ‘Devasnana Purnima’, ‘Anasara’, ‘Rath Yatra’, ‘Bahuda’, ‘Suna Besa’, ‘Adharpana’ and ‘Neeladribije’.
Both during the Rath Yatra and Bahuda, servitors in large numbers are required to carry the giant idols of the gods Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra from the temple onto the chariots in Pahandi procession.
During the last two years, when devotees were restricted to attend the Rath Yatra at Puri, it were the servitors who completed all rituals in a time-bound manner based on age-old traditions and customs while maintaining their sanctity and purity.
The same devotion and dedication were also witnessed among the servitors this year.
Jagannath Rath Yatra is marked by millions of devotees who visit Puri every year to seek blessings from Lord Jagannath and to get their wishes fulfilled. This large congregation of devotees pulling three massive chariots is indeed a sight to behold.
It was after a gap of two years that the devotees were able to attend the Rath Yatra at Puri. They were glad to have Lord Jagannath, and His siblings in their midst.
The discipline of many devotees was truly remarkable. They not only expressed their devotion by coming even at great sacrifice, but they were very considerate of the Covid-19 protocols and very patient indeed.