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Man Dies Of Suffocation As Lakhs Gather For Puri Rath Yatra



The pulling of the chariots began around 5.20 pm.


A massive crowd at the Puri Rath Yatra has led to one person dying of suffocation and several others being hospitalised. The yatra, which is one of the country’s largest religious gatherings, witnessed an even higher turnout this year because it is being held over two days for the first time since 1971.

The administration stressed that the death was due to suffocation and there was no stampede-like situation despite lakhs of people gathering to witness – and participate in – the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra being taken to visit their maternal aunt, Goddess Gundicha Devi, at her temple around 2.5 km away, and then brought back.  

Officials said the death of the man was caused by heat and humidity coupled with the rush. Adequate arrangements had been made and ambulances were deployed to attend to such situations, they emphasised. Despite water being sprinkled on the devotees to keep them cool, several people could be seen carried out on stretchers and taken away in ambulances after collapsing.

President Droupadi Murmu, who was born in Odisha and has served as an MLA, also attended the yatra on Sunday. 

The pulling of the chariots began around 5.20 pm after Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalanada Saraswati went to the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra with his disciples and Puri’s titular king completed the ‘Chhera Pahanra’ (chariot sweeping) ritual.

The President, Odisha Governor Raghubar Das, Chief Minister Mohan Charan Majhi and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan symbolically started the mammoth exercise by pulling the ropes attached to the main chariot of Lord Jagannath. Leader of Opposition Naveen Patnaik also paid obeisance to the deities.

Tight security arrangements were in place, with the deployment of 180 platoons (each 30-strong) of security personnel, Puri Superintendent of Police Pinak Mishra was quoted as saying by news agency PTI. Drones were also deployed. 

CCTV cameras with AI technology were installed at Badadanda, the venue of the festival, and other strategic locations in the town, said ADG (law and order) Sanjay Kumar. As many as 46 fire tenders were also in place and DG, fire service, Sudhanshu Sarangi said water was sprinkled on the crowd to keep them cool.

(With PTI inputs)

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