Jagannath Rath Yatra
Hindu devotees take part in the annual Rath Yatra, or chariot procession, in the eastern Indian city of Puri July 10, 2013.REUTERS/Stringer

The much-awaited annual celebration of the Jagannath Rath Yatra (chariot festival) began on Wednesday morning in Puri, Odisha and Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

The Rath Yatra associated with Lord Jagannath is expected to attract more than 10 lakh devotees from across the world this year.

Pahandi - the ceremonial procession in which deities are carried from the temple to the chariots, began at 9.45 am, Laxmidhar Pujapanda, public relations officer of the temple administration, told IANS.

The festival, which marks the annual journey of Lord Jagannath, Lord Baldev and their sister Devi Subhadra, is celebrated on Ashad Shukla Dwitiya, the second day in bright fortnight of Ashad month. It marks Lord Jagannath's annual visit to Gundicha mata's temple in Puri.

The Rath Yatra of the three deities began on Wednesday morning at around 7 am from from Shreemandir to Gundicha mata's temple. The festival will end nine days later on 18 July which marks Bahuda Yatra or return journey to the temple.    

In view of the recent bomb blasts in Mahabodhi temple, tight security arrangements have been put in place. "More than 100 platoon security forces were deployed to maintain law and order. Besides, the vessels of Indian Coast Guard will keep a watch on the coast," Puri superintendent of police Anup Sahu said, according to Hindustan Times.

More than 7,000 policemen including bomb squads are deployed and CCTV cameras are installed in several vital locations.

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