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Mamata inaugurates Ratha Yatra

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tugged the rope of the chariots of Lord Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra to throw open the annual Rath Yatra [chariot festival] here Thursday.

Organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness [ISKCON], the procession with the deities atop three chariots began from Park Circus Maidan of south Kolkata to reach the Brigade Parade Ground in the central part of the city.

The theme for this year's Rath Yatra which marks the annual journey of the three deities, from their abode to their aunt's house, is the Hare Krishna Movement in Russia.

Banerjee, who took part in the rituals, distributed prasadam before lending a hand to pull the rope of the chariots.

'On Thursday, the nation is celebrating Lord Jagannath's Ratha Yatra. I am also participating in Ratha Yatra at Kolkata. Lord Jagannath helps in overcoming obstacles, evils and forge ahead with courage and right conscience,' she said.

'My prayer to the Lord is to seek blessings to usher in peace, prosperity, happiness and awakening conscience in this beautiful world,' Banerjee posted on Facebook.
The chariots would be kept at the Brigade Parade Ground for the next seven days before making the return journey or Ulta Rath.

Wooden replicas of the chariots of all sizes sold like hot cakes across the city, with children merrily pulling their own chariots in the lanes and by-lanes.

Month-long Rath Festivals have started in various parts of the city, including Moulali in central Kolkata and Rashbehari in the south.

Security has been beefed up in the city and the outskirts to prevent untoward incidents during the festival.
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