Kanchi Abhijana

Kanchi Abhijana is one of the most talked stories of Lord Jagannath. It refers to the war held between the king of Kanchipuram and the Gajapati or king of Puri. According to legends, Princess of Kanchi, Padmabati was famous for her beauty and erudition.

The then Gajapati or the King of Puri, Purusottama Deba mooted a proposal of marriage with the princess through a messenger. Although the king of Kanchi had a clear idea about how powerful the king of Puri is, he was skeptical about marrying his daughter to a sweeper, referring to the ‘Chhera Pahanra’ rituals which the Puri Gajapati does as a tradition in the famous Rath Jatra of Lord Jagannath the God of the Universe. Chhera Pahanra refers to a ritual where the king of Puri sweeps the carts of Lord Balabhadra, Jagannath and Devi Subhadra just after their boarding. In earlier times, sweeping was a profession carried by the chandals or the untouchables. Deeming this humiliation unfitting for a Kshatriya of his stature, he declined the alliance. His proposal not only met with rejection but was also came with sarcastic remarks by the King of Kanchi where he referred to him as a “chandala” or untouchable.

The Puri Gajapati took this as an act of insult to the Lord himself and decided to set out to avenge this insult. The army of Kanchi was huge, well trained compared to his own. The war took place and Gajapati was defeated. Accepting his defeat, he returned back thinking that it was not only his defeat. Being a strong believer, he expressed his inability to avenge the insult of the deity in front of Lord Jagannath and cried his heart out. Consumed by shame and confusion, he prostrated himself at the feet of Lord Jagannatha, fervently beseeching divine intervention to avenge the insult directed at the deity through his faithful worshipper.

Melted by the faith of His dearest worshipper, the Lord promised to help him in the war. He assured that himself and his elder brother Lord Balabhadra will accompany them as the army commander.

With a lot of doubts and confusions, the army began its journey. The king wasn’t very sure of the Lord actually accompanying them. Somewhere at Adipur near Chilika Lake, Manika Gouduni the milk-maid obstructed the Maharaja. She recounted details of her conversation with them pleading for the unpaid cost of cheese and curd eaten by his two leading soldiers riding black and white horses. She mentioned that they had no money and asked her to produce a gold ring as evidence and collect the required amount from the king who was following them.

Tears filled up in his eyes when Purusottama Deba identified the ring as that of Lord Jagannath. He realised these horsemen were none other than the divine brothers, Jagannatha and Balabhadra. Filled with joy and gratitude, he renamed the village after his fair informant, Manikapatna, paid her the dues and continued his journey towards the Deccan, confident of success.

The army led by Purusottama Deba had to fight a fierce battle. With the second advancement of battle, the king of Kanchi sought the help of Kanchi Ganesha who is believed to be the protecting deity of Kanchi. The respective Gods gave their best to help their kings win. After a protracted struggle, Kanchi succumbed to the armies of Odisha. While the king of Kanchi escaped, the exquisite Padmabati, along with the images of Ganesha and Sakhigopal, was captured and triumphantly conveyed to Puri.

Not forgetting about the insult made to the king, the Gajapati ordered his Minister to get the princess married to a sweeper. The kind-hearted minister took her under his care and looked after her as his own daughter until the next Rath Yatra. At the moment when the Gajapati was performing the “Chhera Pahanra” ritual, he instructed her to put the ‘Varmala’ (garland) around the King’s neck. The King was startled when the Minister explained that he had just followed his orders of marrying the princess off to a sweeper. Moved by the plea of his subjects, the Gajapati ultimately consented to marry Padmabati.

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