Amid thousands of devotees from across the world chanting "Hare Krishna" at the annual 'Rath Yatra' organised by the ISKCON here, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee paid obeisance to Lord Jagannath and tugged the rope of the chariot.
Speaking at the occasion of 'Ulta-Ratha Yatra' (return journey) on Monday, the Chief Minister said it was a festival of communal harmony and peace. She arrived at Maidan in the afternoon, the venue where the Rath Yatra festival is being held.
Addressing the gathering, she said: "Rath Yatra is a festival of communal harmony and peace. People from different faith and religion take part in the festival." She also expressed her willingness to visit Iskon's Mayapur temple.
The Chief Minister, who always takes part in the Rath Yatra festival of Iskon could not attend it this year when it started a week ago as she had arrived in the city late in the evening from The Netherlands where she had gone to attend the UN Public Service Day function at The Hague and bagged the first prize for Kanyashree Prakalpa.
Dona Ganguly and her troupe performed Odishi dance at the venue. There were chantings by the ISKON monks and devotees.
Banerjee marked the beginning of the return journey of Lord Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra called the Ulta Rath from Maidan, the venue of the seven-day-long festival.
The Rath (chariot) took Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Dorina Crossing, SN Banerjee Road, Moulali Crossing, CIT Road, Park Circus connector, Shakespeare Sarani, Hungerford Street and then reached the Iskon temple on Albert Road. Hundreds of devotees pulled the rope which is considered to be holy.
Ulta Rath festival was held with usual enthusiasm at Mahesh in Hooghly district's Serampore, which is said to be the second oldest chariot festival in the world and the oldest in Bengal, having been celebrated since 1396 on the same day as the Puri Ratha Yatra. This year marks its 621st edition.
The steel chariot with wooden scaffolding was constructed by Martin Burn in 1855. The Rath is 50 feet high and weighs 125 tonne. It has two copper horses attached to the front.
Ulta Rath was held at the Mayapur temple of Iskon. The Rathas were decorated with flowers and people from different religious communities pulled the rope.
Devotees from all over the world took part in the festival. The devotees chanted hymns and sang "kirtana"
depicting the life of Lord Krishna. There were heavy police deployment and watch towers were set up to prevent any untoward incident.