Gyanendra will continue to be ‘king’ in Puri temple

May 4th, 2008 - 2:27 pm ICT by admin  

By Jatindra Dash
Puri, May 4 (IANS) Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev might lose his 239-year-old crown after monarchy is abolished in Nepal, but he will continue to enjoy special religious rights as a “king” in India’s ancient Jagannath temple in Orissa. Last month’s Constituent Assembly elections in Nepal have brought the Maoists as the largest party to power. An agreement has already been reached between the Maoists and other political parties, including the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML), to abolish monarchy in the country. Declaring Nepal as a republic will be one of the first items in the agenda of the new dispensation in Kathmandu.

The king of Nepal and his queen enjoy special privileges at the 12th century-old Jagannath temple in Orissa’s coastal city of Puri, some 56 km from state capital Bhubaneswar.

The temple is one of the most sacred Hindu pilgrimage spots and considered as one of the four abodes (dhamas) of the divine that lie on the four directions of the country.

As per the temple record of rights, the entire temple premises get washed - a ritual known as ’soudha’, before the arrival of the Nepal royal couple.

Authorities do not allow devotees to enter the temple premise. All the morning rituals of the temple are conducted in advance to facilitate them.

Only a handful of temple servitors help the Nepal royal couple to perform rituals before the deities. The temple administration closes three gates and keeps open only the southern gate for the Nepalese king and queen to enter, according to temple official Bhaskar Mishra.

Family priests of the king, known as ‘Lalmoharia Panda’, escort the couple to the sanctum sanctorum.

It is the Nepal king who has the privilege to perform rituals on the ‘Ratna Vedi,’ the throne of the deities inside the sanctum sanctorum. Except for a few senior temple priests, no other person is allowed to perform the ritual.

“The Nepal royal couple will continue to enjoy the same privileges even after they lose their crown in Nepal,” Suresh Mohapatra, the temple’s chief administrator, told IANS. “If they come here, they will be given the same royal treatment we have been giving them in the past,” he said.

Gyanendra became king after the “royal massacre” in Nepal on July 2001. His brother and the King of Nepal, Birendra, his wife, Queen Aiswarya, Prince Niranjan and Princess Shruti, along with eight others, were shot dead in that gruesome incident by Crown Prince Dipendra, after a dispute over his marriage. Dipendra who was fatally wounded after palace guards shot him, died after a few days.

King Gyanendra had visited the Puri temple on March 29, 2003, nearly two years after the “palace massacre”, along with his queen Komal Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah to offer special prayers on the Ratna vedi inside the sanctum sanctorum.

Gold rings and eyes for all the three presiding deities - Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra, a lotus made of gold, a Laximinarayan statue and other gold ornaments were offered by Gyanendra.

The king also presented a silver peacock feather, a silver ‘chammar’ (feather brush), a pair of silver footwear, two silver dips and a ‘tulsi’ ornament also made of silver, to Lord Jagannath.

Like the Nepal king, a royal family in Orissa also enjoys special status in the temple. The king of Puri, known as ‘Gajapati’, is considered the chief servitor of the Jagannath temple. He is also the ex-officio chairperson of the temple managing body.

Hindu devotees believe the king of Puri is the religious representative of Lord Jagannath and revere him as next to the lord.

When the Nepal king and queen visit the temple, it is the Gajapati who welcomes them to the temple city and accompanies the royal couple to the temple.

“Legend says the King of Nepal had presented the ‘Shaligram Shila’ (a precious stone considered to be the representative of Lord Vishnu) to the king of Orissa, Jajati Keshari, in the 11th century AD,” Jagabandhu Padhi, a researcher said.

“The Sila has since been placed in the heart of the wooden image of lord Jagannath. From that time on the King of Nepal enjoys special privileges in the Jagannath temple,” Padhi told IANS.

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