The 141st Rath yatra, which started from the Jagannath temple in Ahmedabad, saw BJP national president Amit Shah attending the 'mangal aarti' early morning.

Jagannath Rath Yatra, the nine-day annual festival, began at 4:32 am Saturday morning in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad and Odisha’s Puri amid tight security and fanfare. Devotees, including those from outside India, thronged the two cities in large numbers to seek God’s blessings.

The 141st Rath yatra, which started from the Jagannath temple in Ahmedabad, saw BJP national president Amit Shah attending the ‘mangal aarti’ early morning. Other dignitaries who will attend the event include Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. Bahuda Jatra, which marks the end of the yatra, will take place on July 23.

President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the BJP president took to Twitter to greet people on the occasion. “Greetings on the auspicious occasion of Rath Yatra. With the blessings of Lord Jagannath, may our country scale new heights of growth. May every Indian be happy and prosperous. Jai Jagannath!” Modi tweeted.

For the last many years, PM Modi has been sending offerings to the temple ahead of the Rath Yatra. “As always, the PM has kept his commitment and sent sprouted moong, jamun, pomegranate and mangoes, which will be offered to Lord Jagannath,” PTI quoted the head priest of the temple, Dilipdasjee Maharaj, as saying.

President Kovind tweeted, “As the Rath Yatra festivities begins, greetings and best wishes to fellow citizens. May the blessings of Lord Jagannath bring peace, happiness and prosperity to everyone’s lives.”

“Wishing everyone on the auspicious occasion of the Rath Yatra. May Maha Prabhu Jagannath continue to shower his blessings on us. Jai Jagannath,” Shah said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Shah also addressed a youth parliament titled “Forum for Democratic Dialogues” at Karnavati University, which was attended by Rupani and state BJP president Jitu Vaghani. It is a two-day event that will see students from educational institutions debate on social and political issues.

Why is Jagannath Rath Yatra celebrated?

It is said that in the 12th century, Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra took to three giant wooden chariots pulled by devotees during the yatra. And people have been celebrating this since then to mark the annual journey of the three deities. On the occasion, devotees pull the three colourfully decorated chariots which carry the three idols of the deities. This year, the deity will be dressed up as a royal. Last year, the deity was dressed up as a cow herder. The yatra or journey commences on Dwitiya Tithi in the Shukla Paksha of Ashada month.

Elaborate security arrangement has been made by Gujarat police including the use of Israel-made balloon cameras for aerial surveillance. Around 20,000 police personnel, home guard, State Reserve Police and para-military forces are guarding the 18-km route which passes through some communally-sensitive areas.

Meanwhile, crude bombs were found during a search in Gomatipur, a communally-sensitive area in Ahmedabad on Friday, following which two persons were detained, police said. “Four crude bombs, similar to firecrackers made using ‘sutli’ (strings), 12 pipe bombs and a bottle of kerosene were found during the search,” the police said. An FIR was also lodged in the incident.

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