A long time ago the King of Kanchipuram in South India solemnized the marriage of his daughter, Princess Padmavati, with the King of Puri in Kalinga. The King of Puri belonged to the Gajapati dynasty and was Purushottam Deva. Puri’s reigning Deity is Lord Krishna, worshipped as Lord Jagannath. In Puri, Jagannath Yatra is a very important festival, and the idols of Krishna/Jagannath, his brother Balaram/ Balabadra, and sister Subhadra are taken in a huge procession. The custom is that the King dressed as a sweeper with a broom in his hand sweeps the path of the Rath. This symbolizes that even the King is a subject and the Lord is Supreme.
The Kanchi King visited Puri during the Jagannath Yatra and was horrified to see his future son-in-law wearing the clothes of a sweeper and clearing the path of the Rath with a broom. He was so humiliated and enraged at seeing this that he broke off all relations, negotiations and canceled the wedding.
The King of Puri, Purushottam Deva was aghast at this development and rightly felt insulted. He was angry and attacked the Kingdom of Kanchi to take revenge. The Kanchi King’s army defeated the Puri Army and Purushottam Deva was again humiliated and had to return to Puri empty-handed. On his return, the King regrouped his forces and went to Jagannath temple, prayed to the Lord, and asked for his blessing before launching a second attack.
Lord Jagannath and his brother Balabhadra were moved by the King’s plight and decided to help. They both left the temple at Puri on horseback. In paintings and local folklore Lord Jagannath who is dark complexioned is depicted on a white horse and Balabhadra who is fair on a black horse. After traveling for some time both the brothers Jagannath and Balabhadra wanted something to drink as they were thirsty. They saw a milkmaid, Maneka on the wayside carrying terracotta pots on her head, and said to her
“We are very thirsty, can you give us something to drink.”
Maneka saw two powerful, well-dressed men on strong horses who looked like important generals. She immediately offered them buttermilk which she had with her. Once their thirst was quenched Balabhadra offered her his ring as payment and said
“The King of Puri, Purushottam Deva is following us with his huge army. Give the ring to him as proof of your service and he will pay you”
Maneka thanked them and the two brothers went on their way. Soon she saw the army arriving and stopped the King. Maneka said with humility and folded hands.
“Sir, sometime back two of your generals went this way. They were very thirsty and I fed them buttermilk. They asked me to take the money for the buttermilk from you.”
On hearing this the king was astonished as his army was with him and he had not sent anybody ahead. He asked Maneka what they looked like.
She said “Sir, there were two of them. The first general was very fair and strong and rode a black horse. The second one was of dark complexion and was riding a big white horse. They were dressed in fine clothes and even their horses were decorated. Please sir they asked me to take my payment from you”
The King found this hard to believe and told Maneka “This is not possible, as I sent no one. I will not pay you as I don’t know what you are talking about.”
On hearing this Maneka took out the ring and said “The Fair General gave me this ring and said I should give it to you.”
The King took the ring and on seeing it he was flabbergasted. He said “Dear Lady, I do recognize this ring. It is the ring of the Lord Balabhadra. This is indeed a very good omen. I will surely pay you your dues.” So saying he paid the milkmaid and was very happy as he felt that this was an indication that his expedition had the blessings of Lord Jagannath.
He attacked Kanchi and was successful in defeating the Kanchi Army this time. He also brought the princess Padmavati back to Puri and as he was still very angry at her father’s behavior he told his Minister
“Marry the Princess off to a sweeper so that her father is punished for his action. He will then realize what humiliation and dishonor his actions have caused me and my kingdom.”
The minister was a wise man and he agreed to what the King said. He waited for the annual Rath Yatra Festival to arrive. For the Rath Yatra, the King again donned the garb of a sweeper and with a broom in his hand, he swept the path of the Rath of the three Deities. The Clever minister then went to the King and said
“Great King I would like to ask for the hand of the Royal Sweeper of God in Marriage for Princess Padmavati. My master The King of Puri Gajapati Purushottam Deva has asked me to give her in marriage to a Sweeper”. The King realized that he has been outwitted by his minister and agreed to the marriage. So the King and the Princess were eventually married.