Tragedy strikes Lord Jagannath's Rath Yatra in Odisha: Two Dead, Over 130 Injured

The annual Rath Yatra in Odisha's Puri turned tragic as two devotees lost their lives and over 130 were injured in separate incidents on Sunday.

First Incident

A resident of Bolangir district died due to suffocation in a stampede-like situation on Grand Road while pulling the chariot of Lord Balabhadra. 

The devotee fainted amidst the crowd and was rushed to the Puri District Headquarters Hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival. The identity of the deceased remains unknown.

Expressing deep sorrow over the incident, Odisha Chief Minister Mohan Charan Majhi announced an ex gratia of ₹4 lakh for the deceased's family. He also directed officials to ensure the best medical care for the injured.

Second Incident

In another tragic event, a devotee named Shyam Sundar Kishan, 45, died after falling under the wheels of a chariot in Jharsuguda district. The mishap occurred while pulling the chariot of Jagannath temple at Kukujangha village.

Kishan was immediately taken to the district headquarters hospital but succumbed to his injuries during treatment.

130 injured

The stampede-like situation in Puri left many devotees injured, with over 130 people, including some police personnel, needing medical attention. The injured were transported to the Puri District Headquarters Hospital, where Health Minister Mukesh Mahaling visited to assess the situation. 

Revenue Minister Suresh Pujari visited the hospital on Sunday night and assured that all efforts were being made to care for the injured. "The doctors and medical staff, along with volunteers, have done an excellent job. We hope the injured will be discharged by Monday evening," he said.

Rath Yatra 2024

The annual Rath Yatra is a grand festival celebrated with immense devotion in Puri, Odisha. Every year it sees a massive influx of devotees from all around the world, all gather to witness and participate in the ceremonial procession. 

The Rath Yatra involves the idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, and Devi Subhadra being placed on three huge, beautifully decorated chariots. 

The idols are taken from the 12th-century Jagannath Temple to the Gundicha Temple, which is considered their birthplace, which is 2.5 km along the Grand Road (Bada Danda) of Puri town. 

The procession begins with the "Pahandi" ritual, a ceremonial procession where the idols are brought out of the temple. The scion of the erstwhile Puri royal family, regarded as the first servitor of the deities, performs the "Chhera Panhara" ritual, where he sweeps the chariot floors with a golden broom. 

The chariots, each standing nearly 45 feet tall, are pulled by thousands of devotees amid chants of "Jai Jagannath" and "Haribol." The pulling of Lord Balabhadra’s chariot, Taladhwaja, traditionally leads the procession, followed by the chariots of Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath. 

This year, the event, extended to two days for the first time in 53 years, saw around a million devotees coming to Puri to participate in the yatra.

This year, President Droupadi Murmu graced the occasion, performing a 'parikrama' (circumambulation) of the chariots and paying her respects to the deities. The Shankaracharya of Puri, Swami Nischalanada Saraswati, along with his disciples, also visited the chariots before the procession began.

As massive influx of devotees was expected, tight security measures were implemented including,  around 180 platoons of security personnel were deployed, and AI-based CCTV cameras were installed at strategic locations in the town. Additionally, 46 fire tenders were stationed in various parts of the town and along the sea beach to ensure safety.

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