People in hundreds descend on the town to catch a glimpse of her and the royal procession
The special worship can be performed only once in her lifetime Some 22 royal families invited to the traditional event
PURI: The 12th century Jagannath Temple here was sanitised and the ever-busy premises were made absolutely free of humans. Thousands of devotees were prohibited from entering the shrine. Even purist priests vacated the famous Hindu temple for several hours on Sunday afternoon.
The reason. The queen of Puri desired to make a private visit - Gahan Bije - to the temple of Lord Jagannath a few days ago, a wish she could have availed only once in her lifetime. Hundreds of curious onlookers thronged the coastal town of Orissa to have a glimpse of the 51-year-old queen Lilabati Pattamahadei making a special entry into the shrine and a royal procession accompanying her. She came in a palanquin borne by seven persons from the palace to the temple. Nobody could see her face as the palanquin doors were closed.
The rituals associated with `Gahan Bije' were performed almost after a period of 40 years. In 1966, the queen's mother-in-law Suryamani Pattamahadei had expressed a similar desire to have darshan of Lord Jagannath. According to traditions, the queens of Puri kings, who were considered incarnations of Lord Jagannath, could perform the special worship only once in their lives. Some 22 royal families were invited to make it truly a traditional affair. The invitees represented erstwhile kingdoms, including Jaypur, Purulia, Nilagiri, Khandapara, Kalahandi, Bamanda, Balangir, Kishangarh, Khariar and Dhenkanal. Puri King Gajapati Dibyasingh Deb attired in traditional outfit guided the queen to the Jagannath temple. Martial art, flag procession and royal attendants provided the whole process a fabulous façade. A security blanket was thrown outside the temple and the palace to ensure that no unsavoury incident spoiled the party. The rituals were delayed by three hours. What did happen inside the temple? The queen, helped by a boy priest and two married Brahmin women, performed the special puja inside the sanctum sanctorum. "According to Record of Rights, the king is the chief servitor of Lord Jagannath. The queen, too, enjoys similar status. The special arrangement was made to maintain traditional decorum," Jagannath temple administration chief Suresh Mohapatra said.
Before the queen left for the temple, the Puri King told newsmen: "The queen is indeed on her maiden visit. She can have darshan of the Lord as much as she can but she can perform ritual only once in her life time." Reacting to a question on opposition by some rationalist groups to the huge arrangement, he said: "If any change has to be brought about, the persons who are part of the culture and tradition can initiate the reform. But someone who is not part of the culture cannot have any say in this."