Maharaja of Puri turns ‘sweeper’ for Lord Jagannath

By Niranjan Shah

My dear Shilpi and Snehi:
This is a week of Lord Jagan-nath Rath Yatra. Lord Jagannath Rath Yatra in Puri is known not only for its grand colorful celebrations but also for its unique traditional rituals. One such unique ritual is Chera Paharan in which Maharaja of Puri, Dibya Singh Deo, dons the role of a sweeper. The ritual is believed to be 1,000 years old.  Dibya Singh Deo said: “This ritual symbolizes that all are same in the eyes of the Lord. The Maharaja doing the humble job of sweeping suggests that no job is small when it involves the service of the Lord. Ever since the Puri Jagannath Temple was renovated in the 12th century, the Maharaja has been considered as the first sevayat or servant of the God. However, nowadays the Maharaja performs the rituals only on important occasions like the Rath Yatra. The Maharaja of Puri is also the chairman of the Temple Management Committee, which gives advice to the temple administrators under the state government. And even though the Maharaja no more enjoys the power and nor does he have any kingdom to rule, he continues to rule over the millions of hearts of devotees, who believe in the Lord Jagannath culture.

Jagannath Temple in Puri is a famous Vedic temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath (Krishna) and located in the coastal town of Puri in the state of Orissa, India. The name Jagannath (Lord of the Universe) is a combination of the Sanskrit words Jagat (Universe) and Nath (Lord of). The temple is an important pilgrimage destination for many Vedic traditions, particularly worshippers of Krishna and Vishnu, and part of the Char Dham pilgrimages that 80 percent of India’s population desire to visit in one’s lifetime. The temple is famous for its annual Rath Yatra, or chariot festival, in which the three main temple deities are hauled on huge and elaborately decorated chariots. Since medieval times, it is also associated with intense religious fervor. The temple is sacred to the Vaishnava traditions and saint Ramananda, who was closely associated with the temple. It is also of particular significance to the followers of the Gaudiya Vaishnavism, whose founder, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, was attracted to the deity, Jagannath, and lived in Puri. 

The city is known by various names such as Nilanchala, Nilagiri, Niladri, Purusottama Kshetra, Srikshetra, Sankha-Kshetra, Jagannath Kshetra (Dhaam) and Puri. These names have been mentioned in the Puranas and ancient sacred literature like Maha-bharata, Kurma Purana, Narada Puran, Padma Puran and Skand Purana. Puri was the seat of Vishnu Kshetra even during  the visit of  Sankaracharya. Sanakaracharya established one of his four Pithas here, namely, Gobardhan Pitha or Matha near Swargadwar.

Lord Jagannath’s Chariot is known as Nandighosa. It has a height of 45 feet. It has 16 wheels, each of seven feet diameters and is decked with red and yellow coverings of cloth. The Sarathi or the charioteer made of wood is known as Daruk. The four horses attached to the chariot are known as Samkha, Rochica, Mochica and Jwalani. They are white in color. The name of Ratha Pala is Shri Nrusingha. At the crest of the chariot are the wheel and the image of Garuda. The name of the flag of Nandighosa is Trailakya-mohini. It may be pointed out that 832 pieces of wood are used in Nandi-ghosa. Nandi-ghosa is drap-ed in yellow cloth.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the great Sikh emperor, had donated massive amounts of gold to this temple, (five times more than what he gave away to the Golden Temple at Amritsar). In his will, he ordered that Kohinoor, the greatest diamond in the world, be donated to this temple. But the diamond could never actually make its way to the temple because the British, by that time, had annexed the Punjab and all its royal possessions.

— Grandpa’s blessing

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