All these because the 51-year-old Lilabati Pattamahadei, Queen of Puri was visiting the famous 12th century Lord Jagannath Temple at Puri.
Photo acknowledgement: Tourism Department.
It was no ordinary visit. The ritual, which is actually a private one, is known as ‘Gahan Bijie’. The King was presented with the keys to all the temple chambers and the Queen entered the empty shrine in the company of the boy priest and two married Brahmin women. She could spend as much time there as she liked and no force would disturb her. But only once in her lifetime. Never again would the present Queen perform a ‘Ghan Bijie’. The last one was forty-one years back, by the previous Queen.
This took place on April 8, 2007.
There is no kingdom now. But the King is believed to be the incarnation of Lord Jagannath. The tradition is twelve centuries old and no one is expected to question it. Some rationalists did protest against the rite, and to them the King, a former student of St. Stephen’s,
At the end of the day, the crowd of “at least” 50,000 people who came to see the ceremony, had only one regret. Because the Queen had arrived with the palanquin curtains drawn, they could not get a glimpse of her face!
(Based on media reports.)
Also see: The last of the Travancore Maharajas