Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and a host of central ministers and other dignitaries greeted the people to mark the occasion.
The nine-day festival, also known in many other names such as Ghosha Yatra, Srigundicha Yatra and Rath Yatra, was aired live by dozens of television channels, including national televisions, reaching out millions of devotees around the world.
Lakhs of people have congregated at the pilgrim town to witness Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra riding three giant wooden chariots to be pulled by the devotees on the Bada Danda (Grand Road) as they travel to Gundicha temple.
The festival is also being webcast by different web portals, including http://jagannath.nic.in, the website of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration.
Director General of Police (DGP) K.B. Singh said elaborate security arrangements have been made for the chariot festival.More news: Trump lashes out at Democrats after Georgia win
The devotees will pull the three chariots on the grand road to the Gundicha Temple, about three kilometres from the main temple, on Sunday.
Before the presiding deities - Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Lord Balabhadra and their sister Devi Subhadra - set out from the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, a number of special rituals like "Mangla Arati" and "Mailam" were performed.
In a rhythmic style, the deities moved forward step by step to the accompaniment of beating of "ghantas" and "kahalis" and blowing of konch shells.
Pahandi procession started before 11 am with Sudarshan brought to the chariot of Goddess Subhadra.
The idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Baldey and Devi Subhadra were placed on a beautifully decorated chariot.
To thwart any untoward incident during the rath yatra, over 20,000 police and paramilitary personnel as well as NSG commandos have been deployed along the route.