Puri : At least 800,000 devotees Tuesday witnessed the return of three Hindu deities to the 12th century Jagannath temple in three splendidly decorated chariots here after their nine-day sojourn in another shrine.
The original chariot procession had taken the deities, lord Jagannath, brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra, to the Gundicha temple, which is about five km from the main temple.
Their journey was part of the annual Ratha Yatra or Chariot Festival that is held on the second day of the waxing moon during the month of Ashadha (June-July) in the Indian calendar.
The deities returned home Tuesday in the same chariots in the festival celebrated as Bahuda Yatra or chariots' return journey.
An official of the district intelligence bureau told IANS that the total number of devotees that gathered here to witness the return journey was about 800,000.
While the chariot carrying the idol of Baladhadra rolled from the Gundicha temple at 4.15 p.m., the chariot of Devi Subhadra rolled at 4.48 p.m., he said. The chariot of lord Jagannath rolled at about 5.05 p.m.
The chariot carrying lord Jagganath is called the Nandighosh, which is 45-foot high with 16 wheels, Balabhadra's Taladhwaja is a foot less in height with 14 wheels, while Subhadra travels on the Padmadhwaja that stands 43 feet tall and has a dozen wheels.
The chariots, made of 1,130 big wooden logs, traverse Puri's main street, called Great Grant Road.
Devotees pull the chariots with ropes, hoping the exercise will help them get rid of their sins.
While non-Hindus are forbidden from entering the Jagannath temple, people of all religions are allowed to have a view of the deities and pull the ropes of the chariots during the annual festival.