The city, which is infamous for a history of communal riots, is witnessing Eid-ul-Fitr and Lord Jagannath’s Rath Yatra simultaneously after around 30 years and followers of both the religions have pledged to avoid any untoward incident during the celebrations.

Religious leaders of both the communities exchanged candies and flowers while wishing each other as Mahant Dilip Dasji Maharaj of Jagannath Temple visited Muslim clerics during “Iftar” and followers of Islam here also offered flowers and cuisines to the Lord’s temple. It falls on Ashad Shukla Pakshya Dwitiya (second day in bright fortnight of Ashad month) usually in the month of June or July.

Reports said more than 50 lakh people are expected to throng the city to participate in the grand yatra that will witness Lord Jagannath’s new idol for the first time this century. The most important ritual of the day “Chhera Pahanra”, sweeping all around the deities and chariots with a gold-handled broom and sprinkling of holy water with sandal, is performed by Puri Gajapati Dibya Singh Deb before the chariot journey of the deities. Every year the yatra is taken out with pomp and show. “May the coming year be one filled with prosperity & well-being”, he said.

Meanwhile, a milling crowd was anxiously waiting for the “Nabajauban Darshan” of the deities on the eve of the Rath Yatra. Sadly, the Nabakalebara festival has invited huge criticism from different quarters for the gross violation of age old sacred rituals, particularly during Brahma parivartan. On Nabakalebara, the old bodies of the deities at Puri temple have been replaced by the new ones made of Neem wood logs.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has deputed four ministers and an army of bureaucrats to supervise the smooth functioning of the festival.

The Rath Yatra procession travels on a 14-km route across the city, where lakhs of devotees are seeking blessings. More than 25 platoons of police will be deployed across the city on Saturday. The visitors are provided free bus service from the terminus to the town.

“After becoming PM, he could not come to attend the Rath Yatra“. Such is the popularity of yatra that a place in Jugsalai has been named “rath gali” after it.

“On this blessed day of Rath Yatra, my warm greetings to all of you”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent a letter as well as the traditional offering (prasad) of green gram (moong), blackberries (jamun) and mangoes to the Jagannath temple today, on the occasion of Lord Jagannath’s 138th Rath Yatra (chariot procession ritual) to be held today.

A priest at Jagannath temple Soumendra Muduli said,”Like we die and take new birth”.