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Gajapati Maharaja Sweeps Chariots For 50 Years

Puri: Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb, referred as “Thakura Raja” Tuesday achieved a rare feat by performing the hereditary “Chhera Pahanra” (sweeping) on chariots of divine siblings- Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath’s chariots.

Though the kings of Puri traditionally perform this rare ritual on chariots, 68-year-old Deibyasingha Deb is the first among the royal family, who completed 50 years in the Lord’s service.

Gajapati Maharaja, who is also referred as the first servitor of Lord Jagannath, has been performing the sacred ritual since the day of his becoming the king in 1971. Mr.Deb became the Puri king in 1070 after the demise of his father the then king Birakishor Deb.

However, Mr.Deb could not perform the ritual once in 1976 when he was studying LLM in North Western University of Law, Chicago (1975-1976). Mr.Deb had his schooling from Convent School (1957-1959) in Puri following which he went to Rajkumar College, Raipur in Chhattisgarh (1959-1968) and completed his graduation in History from St. Stephens College (1969-1972). He passed LLB from Law Faculty from University of Delhi (1971-1975).

Though highly educated, Mr.Deb preferred not to make any professional career and was completely devoted to Lord Jagannath. “I always accord a special place to the Rath Jatra as it is the main festival of Odisha. I will perform Chhera Pahanra this year,” Mr.Deb said while replying to a question on not performing Chhera Pahanra on the Snan Purnima (bathing festival) of the Lord on June 24 this year.

In his absence, the royal family’s representative called “mudirasta”, a minor servitor, performs the king’s seva. On June 24, the mudirasta servitor performed Chhera Pahanra ritual on Snan Mandap (bathing platform) in the Jagannath Temple.

On Tuesday, clad in spotless white, Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb arrived at the Shree Gundicha Temple in ‘Tamjan’ (a palanquin with a hood) in a procession from his royal palace by side of the Grand Road.

He first offered prayers to the sibling deities and then conducted the ritual using a broom with a gold-plated handle after sprinkling water on the chariots. Thereafter, the gods began their homeward journey after a nine-day sojourn at the place of their birth.

Mr.Deb’s real name is Kamarnaba Deb and he is the eldest son of King Birakishor Deb and Queen Suryamani Pata Mahadei.

According to a former Temple Administrator and an ace Researcher in the Jagannath culture, Rabinarayan Mishra says that the Chhera Pahanra ritual has a clear social message that all are equal before the Lord. He said the ritual is being performed during the Rath Jatra for centuries to give a clear message to the society that there should be no discrimination on the basis of caste, creed and any other barrier before the almighty.

Chhera Pahanra is the second phase of the festival which is a colourful and elaborate ritual of Rath Jatra.

 According to Shree Jagannath Temple Administration’s official records, the ritual goes back several hundred years and is a symbol of the subjugation of the temporal to the spiritual.

“The emperors of Orissa, beginning with the valiant Anantvarman Chodagangadeva in the 12th century, had declared themselves to be the “Rauta” (servant) of Lord Jagannath and ruled the land as His representative,” the records said.

The sweeping by the king is a ritual which demonstrates publicly about the unique philosophy of integration and unity symbolised by Lord Jagannath, Mr.Mishra said.

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