Union Home Minister Amit Shah performed 'aarti' at Jagannath Temple in Ahmedabad on early Monday morning before the annual Rath Yatra takes off from the temple.
Jagannath Temple is all decked up ahead of Rath Yatra in Ahmedabad. Heavy security has been deployed outside the temple.
Shah is on a three-day visit to his home state Gujarat from July 11 to take part in a host of programmes, including Lord Jagannath's rath yatra in Ahmedabad today.
After taking take part in 'mangla aarti' at Lord Jagannath temple, Shah would visit Nardipur village of Gandhinagar district to launch several schemes.
He also took to Twitter to greet people on the occasion of Jagannath Rath Yatra and wished that Lord may shower his blessings on everyone and fill everyone's life with good health, prosperity and good fortune.
"Hearty greetings to all the countrymen on the auspicious occasion of Shri Jagannath Rath Yatra. May Mahaprabhu Jagannath shower his blessings on everyone and fill everyone's life with good health, prosperity and good fortune. Jai Jagannath!" he tweeted.
The 144th annual rath yatra of Lord Jagannath began in Gujarat's Ahmedabad city on Monday morning, but it was devoid of the usual festive fervour and crowds due to the curfew imposed on its route to bar people from taking part in it in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of the usual cavalcade of around 100 trucks, decked up elephants, akhadas and singing troupes, this year's procession consisted of only three chariots, pulled by nearly 100 youths from the Khalasi community, and four to five other vehicles.
To prevent people from gathering on roads for a glimpse of the deities, a curfew has been imposed on the entire 19-km route of the procession from early morning till afternoon, Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja told reporters.
According to the city police, around 23,000 armed personnel, including nine companies of the Central Armed Police Forces, have been deployed along the route to prevent any unwarranted situation, as the procession passes through some communally sensitive areas also.
Although the rath yatra would cover the entire 19-km route, the procession this time would be a shorter affair in terms of duration as the authorities have planned to conclude it in four to five hours as against the usual time of around 12 hours.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak last year, lakhs of people used to gather along the route on 'Ashadhi Beej' every year to catch a glimpse of the decorated elephants and tableaux moving around in some 100 trucks.
The procession used to come back to the Lord Jagannath temple after covering a distance of 19 km in about 12 hours, which included an hour-long lunch break at Saraspur.
However, this time, authorities have ensured there is no large gathering in Saraspur.
Since people from other districts and those living in western parts of the city also flock the route to watch the procession, police are regulating the traffic movement on all bridges to stop people from reaching near the route.
The government also appealed to people to watch the live telecast of the rath yatra on television.
Last year, only a symbolic rath yatra was organised in the premises of the Lord Jagannath temple here after the Gujarat High Court denied permission for the usual public procession due to the pandemic.
(With inputs from ANI)