Policeman performs Lord Jagannath's ceremonial chariot sweeping ritual in Odisha’s Dharmasala

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Jajpur (Odisha), Jul 7 (PTI) The annual Rath Yatra of the holy trinity — Lord Balabhadra, Lord Jagannath, and Devi Subhadra — at Dharmasala, a small town in Odisha’s Jajpur district, is unique as the ceremonial sweeping of chariots, known as 'chhera pahanra', is performed by none other than the inspector-in-charge (IIC) of the local police station.

This year, IIC Tapan Kumar Nayak performed the ceremonial sweeping on the chariot. He was escorted to the Jagannath temple at Bhalukhai in a specially decorated vehicle from his police station, located about 2 km from the shrine. Clad in royal attire, the inspector received a warm welcome along the road.

"Nayak ascended the chariot and conducted the traditional sweeping ceremony of Lord Jagannath's chariot with a golden-handled broom, amidst chants by priests. The IIC holds a significant role as the primary servant of Lord Jagannath in this context," a priest said.

"It is a great privilege for me to serve the Lord," said Nayak after performing the ritual.

Similarly, the Rath Yatra in Gadamadhupur, an erstwhile kingdom in Jajpur district, drew considerable attention, with a woman member of the royal family performing rituals on the chariot.

Aparna Dhir Singh Bharadwaj, 46, and a descendant of the Gadamadhupur royal family, performed the 'chera pahanra' and other ceremonial rituals of the deities.

Aparna has been performing these rituals for the past five years, introducing a change in the 400-year-old tradition of her family.

Following the demise of her father Raja Birabara Krunshaprasad Dhir Singh in 2012, and with no male successor, Aparna was crowned as the queen and has since taken on the responsibility of performing these rituals.

The Rath Yatra in Gadamadhupur follows the Puri code. After completing the rituals of the three deities and the ceremonial procession of 'pahandi bije', the trinity are enthroned in the chariot, which begins its procession at 5 pm. Thousands of devotees from the area gathered at the royal temple to participate in the festivities.

The annual journey of Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra, and Lord Balabhadra at Chhatia in the district is noteworthy due to the longest chariot procession in the state. The three chariots are pulled from Chhatia to Badaghumuri, covering a distance of about 12 km, including 8 km along National Highway 16.

A large number of devotees participate in pulling the chariots all the way. After the 'pahandi' of the three deities, the chariot pulling begins in the afternoon and reaches the Mausima temple by evening. Many police personnel also participate to ensure the chariots reach the destination swiftly along the National Highway. PTI COR BBM BBM MNB