Pradeep Pattanayak

‘Chhera Panhara’ is one of the important rituals witnessed during the annual nine-day-long sojourn of Lord Jagannath and His siblings-Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra- in Puri.

The importance lies in the fact that Puri Gajapati Maharaja, who is considered as the first servitor of Lord Jagannath, sweeps the chariots of the three deities parked on the Grand Road near Srimandir with a golden broom. 

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Devotees on the grand road eagerly wait for this occasion as it is believed that to witness Gajapati Maharaja and Lord Jagannath together means washing away of all sins.

This ritual is performed on two occasions- on Gundicha Yatra when the deities go to the Gundicha temple and on Bahuda Yatra when the deities return to their abode.
On these two occasions, the Gajapati Maharaja is seen performing the job of a sweeper. It sends out a message that in the eyes of Lord Jagannath there is no difference between a king and a sweeper. 

To perform the job, the King is brought from the royal palace in a palanquin to the place where the chariots are parked. 

A set of servitors meant for this purpose is there on the chariot. The King sweeps the floors of the chariots with a golden broom and sprinkles sandalwood water. After the completion of this ritual, the long-awaited chariot pulling begins.