The Gajapati king of Puri Divya Singha Deva performed “Chhera Pahanra”, a ritual of sweeping the chariots before they were pulled by scores of devotees of Lord Jagannath. The ritual has a clear social message that all are equal before the Lord, said Rabinarayan Mishra, a researcher in the Jagannath culture.
He said the ritual is being performed during the Rath Yatra 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 as colourful and elaborate ritual of Rath Yatra.
The Raja, King of Puri, Gajapati Divya Singha Deva is informed about the deities having taken their places on the chariots through a messenger specially deputed by the temple officials. The King, clad in a spotless white attire, carried in a silver plated palanquin, climbs up on the chariots one by one. He first offers prayers to the deity seated on the chariot and then cleans the platforms with a golden broom, sprinkling flowers and fragrant water on the surface of the chariot.
According to Shree Jagannath Temple Administration’s official records, the ritual goes back to 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, Mishra said. After cleansing of the chariots by the Raja and his departure to the palace, the wooden horses — painted in brown, black and white colour — are fixed to the three chariots and pulled.