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Seven lakhs attend final phase of chariot festival in Puri
by Sarada Lahangir

     Puri (Orissa): Over 700,000 devotees gathered at the temple town of Puri on Thursday as the 10-day long chariot festival came to an end. Extensive security arrangements were on place during the Bahuda Yatra (Return Journey) of the chariot, when the chariots are brought back to the temple. "On the occasion of return of the car we have made elaborate arrangements. Right now the rituals of the Lord is proceeding smoothly and we pray to the God that all these three chariots will reach the main temple," said Ashok Meena, chief administrator of the Jagannath temple. Devotees pull three well decorated chariots carrying the idol of Hindu deity Lord Jagannath, his brother Lord Balabhadra and sister Goddess Subhadra, from the main temple to another nearby temple, where they remain for seven days. Preparations for the "Rath Yatra" (chariot festival) begin months ahead. The three chariots are built every year near the famous Gundicha Bari temple and the collection of wood begins on Basant Panchami (Spring Festival). This is the only occasion when everybody irrespective of their caste, colour and creed get an opportunity to seek the blessings of the deity. "This is a yearly occasion but for me it is once in a lifetime opportunity and I just want to say thank you to the town of Puri, Orissa and all of India. This is a great experience," said Harry, a foreigner. The Jagannath temple in Puri, about 60 kilometres from state capital Bhubaneswar, is one of the holiest places in India for the Hindus.
-July 3, 2009

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