Two women devotees died of suffocation and 10 were injured in a stampede during the millennium’s first Nabakalebara Rath Yatra here Saturday.
According to the police, two unidentified women, aged 64 and 45, died between Marichikote Square and Hindi Vidyapeeth on Grand Road while Lord Balabhadra’s Taladhwaja chariot was being pulled. Though DGP Sanjiv Marik denied any death due to ‘stampede’, he admitted that the 64-year-old died due to exhaustion. “The woman doesn’t have any injury marks on her body,” the DGP said.
Meanwhile, 10 others were injured in a few minor incidents during the pulling of chariots. There were reports of pilgrims sustaining injuries after falling from atop a building. Two of the seriously injured — Sagarika Mandal and Sanjay Praharaj — were shifted to SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack.
During the day, over 15 lakh devotees converged to take part in the pulling of chariots as idols of the deities made an appearance after a gap of 45 days.
This year’s Rath Yatra was significant as the devotees witnessed the newly sculpted idol at the end of Nabakalebara, the re-embodiment of three deities — Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra — and Sudarshan, the celestial weapon of Lord Jagannath.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik pulled Nandighosh chariot of Lord Jagannath. Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan and Union Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma also took part in the Rath Yatra.
Elaborate arrangements were made to provide tight security by deploying nearly 10,000 police personnel, besides air and coastal surveillance.
Officer on Special Duty for the Rath Yatra, Soumendra Priyadarshi, said all steps were taken to prevent any untoward incidents.
Personnel of the Anti-Terror Squad, Rapid Action Force and sharp-shooters were deployed at vital points while the Coast Guard kept a vigil on the sea.