Jagannath Yatra to Puri, Odisha has been completed. Although there are about 4500 people in the Jagannath temple to serve the Lord, but about 150 Pratiharis are specially appointed to protect the Lord. Pratihari means protector of God. The history of the Jagannath temple is as old as that of the Pratiharis.
To know about the Pratiharis, we have spoken to Damodar Gochikar, the priest of Jagannath Temple. He told that in the olden times, there used to be huge armies and guards for the protection of the kings and emperors. At that time the kings used to attack other kingdoms. The system of Pratiharis was started to save Jagannath’s temple and Thakurji’s statue from those attacks. The Pratiharis of the temple have saved the idol of Thakur ji from invaders many times over hundreds of years.
How are Pratiharis appointed in the temple?
There is a special process for the appointment of Pratihars in the temple. Several generations of Pratiharis guarding the temple have served here. The system of Pratiharis is going on from generation to generation. When the janeu sanskar of the children of the servants is done, then the children request the parents in writing to the temple committee to appoint their child to serve in the temple. After about two to three years, the temple committee appoints that child to serve Pratihari in the temple.
Which children do not get the responsibility of protecting God?
In relation to the Pratiharis, there is a system that here only the children of the people are given the responsibility of becoming the protector of God. If a Pratihari marries outside the community here, then his children are not given the responsibility of protecting God in the temple. Children of such parents are not able to become Pratihari. Pratiharis who marry outside the community may call themselves Pratiharis, but they are not called servants in the temple.
What do Pratiharis do throughout the year after Jagannath Yatra?
Even after the Jagannath Yatra, there is a duty of Pratiharis in the temple throughout the year. At present, a Pratihari gets a remuneration of around Rs 500 for a day’s service in the temple. Pratihari maintains the arrangements for the devotees visiting the temple. Their work lasts from the opening of the temple in the morning till the closing of the doors of the temple at night.