Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

The nation still is mourning the irreparable loss of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat who died in a tragic chopper crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday.

Along with Rawat, his wife and 11 others, including Odia Jawan Rana Pratap Das, were declared dead in the unfortunate accident. Group Captain Varun Singh (Shaurya Chakra) is the only lucky survivor among the 14 persons on board the ill-fated Indian Air Force helicopter. The entire nation was left shocked after the IAF confirmed the deaths.

Condolences and prayers for the bereaved families poured in from several quarters as the nation grieved the irreparable loss. 

But, it is not known to many that Gen Rawat was a staunch devotee of Lord Jagannath. 

Gen Rawat had visited Puri's Srimandir on November 25 in 2017 with his wife Madhulika. Ramchandra Purana Panda, who was in charge of escorting Defence personnel in Srimandir, had guided Rawat and his wife. Panda had described the history and importance of all facts related to Srimandir and Lord Jagannath to the top Army family. 

The former Army Chief had earlier visited Srimandir to seek blessings of the Supreme Lord in 2015.

Panda was left stunned and shocked after learning about the tragic incident. He was more shaken as a few days back he had interacted with Gen Rawat and had invited him to Srimandir. Even Rawat had promised to seek blessings from Lord Jagannath soon. 

But, his wish of visiting Srimandir couldn't be fulfilled.

"During his (Gen Rawat’s) visit to Puri, I had escorted him into the temple. While offering prayers at the feet of Lord Jagannath, he didn't seek anything for himself. Rather, he had asked wellness of Indian jawans and their families. He also prayed for the martyred soldiers and their families," said Panda.

Panda further said that Gen Rawat looked quite contended while visiting several other temples in the premises of Srimandir. 

"I have escorted several Defence personnel till date, but after interacting and spending some time with him (Rawat), I realised that no other officials were so happy and cheerful like him," added Panda.

Panda went on to say that Gen Rawat had a unique personality and stature which was more than impressive. "I am out of words describing him," he said.

"It is more heartbreaking for me as about 10 days back I had interacted with him over the phone and he had promised to visit Srimandir very soon," said Panda while offering his condolences to the great son of India.