The annual Jagannath Rath Yatra commenced in the coastal temple town of Puri in Odisha on Thursday. Over two lakh people are expected to attend the first day of the annual celebrations at the temple town that was worst affected by cyclone Fani in May.
The Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi and the President,Mr. Ram Nath Kovind, have extended their greetings to the devotees on the occasion.
'Best wishes to everyone on the special occasion of the Rath Yatra. We pray to Lord Jagannath and seek his blessings for the good health, happiness and prosperity of everyone,' Mr. Modi said in a tweet.
'Greetings and good wishes to fellow citizens on the auspicious occasion of Rath Yatra. May the blessings of Lord Jagannath bring peace, happiness and prosperity to everyone's lives,' said the President.
According to the authorities, the number of devotees is expected to be 30 per cent less than last year due to cyclone Fani that had hit the coastal state recently. 'I take great pride in announcing that Odisha will be celebrating the Jagannath Rathyatra during July 4-12, just two months after the cyclone-ravaged the city of Puri,' the state tourism minister, Ms. Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi, was quoted as saying.
The state administration, however, claims key services like power and water supply, telecommunication and hotels have been restored..
'We are expecting the chariot festival to be low key this year as we are still recovering from the cyclone. However, we are fully prepared now and are expecting 1.5-2 million devotees at the festival,' tourism, sports and youth services secretary, Mr. Visha Kumar Dev, said.
The cyclone landfall in Odisha on May 4 unleashing torrential rains and winds rushing up to 175 km per hour. Puri was among the worst-hit areas of the state. 10 people were killed and Odisha reportedly suffered a loss of Rs 12,000 crore. Over 5 lakh dwelling units across coastal districts were reportedly devastated during the calamity.