Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 27:
Thousands of devotees pulled the Rukuna Rath, the chariot of Lord Lingaraj, on the occasion of Ashokashtami in the Odisha capital here today.
Several thousand more made a beeline to the Ratha Road just to touch the rope of the chariot, which is considered a holy act.
The chariot, however, could not reach the destination of Mausi Maa temple as darkness set in. It had to be anchored at Badhei Banka sahi, midway between the Lingaraj Temple and Mausi Maa temple. It would be pulled again tomorrow afternoon. As per tradition established over centuries, chariots are not pulled after sundown.
While many of the rituals followed during the Ashokashtami Rath Yatra here are similar to those followed during the more famous Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath in Puri, it is unique in at least one respect. Unlike the Rath Yatra in Puri, the Rukuna Rath of Lord Lingaraj does not return from the Mausi Maa temple. That is why it is called analeuta (the one that does not come back).
As per tradition, the chariot was commissioned using water brought at midnight from the nearby Marichi Kunda. The rituals of Mangal Arati and Aabakasha started at 4 am while the Sahana Mela (open to public) darshan was held from 4:30 am till 6 am.
The BMC, BDA and other concerned authorities have taken elaborate measures for smooth conduct of the yatra such as provision of drinking water, electrification of the roads and temple, ensuring hygiene around the venue, arrangement of cultural programmes and removal of obstruction etc.
The Commissionerate Police have deployed 29 platoons of cops to maintain law and order during the festival.