Thanks to the pandemic and social media, many behind-the-scene faces have got their chance to bask in the limelight. Similar is the case of Anil Gochikar, who has gained popularity as the Bahubali Sevayat or bodyguard of Lord Jagannath.
On the auspicious occasion of Bahuda Yatra of Lord Jagannath and his siblings in Puri, Gochikar, a ‘Pratihari’ servitor of the Puri Jagannath temple, has become famous for his well-sculpted body and gentleman’s attitude.
The 43-year-old became an instant Internet sensation after a few photos of him went viral during the Rath Yatra. In one photo he was standing on the chariot while in another, he was pulling the grand chariots. People soon started calling him Bodyguard and Baahubali Sevayat.
Gochikar’s family has been serving part of the personal security force of Lord Jagannath over generations.
Since childhood, he has been attending ‘Akhada’ (a place of physical fitness practices). “In 2010, I joined the gym and started doing exercise after being inspired by my elder brother Sunil, who is also a bodybuilder. Since then, I have been continuously doing physical exercise every day in the afternoon,” Anil said.
He had already carved a niche for himself in the field of bodybuilding, the advent of social media made him even more popular. He won several awards and medals at the state, national and international level.
Gochikar, who has the looks of an actor-model, has won the title of Mr Odisha seven times, Eastern India champion three times and Mr India four times. He also won gold at International Bodybuilders Championship in Dubai in 2016 and bronze at World Championship in 2014.
Gochikar is a pure vegetarian and stays away from alcohol, cigarettes or any tobacco product.
His diet includes dal, soybean, broccoli, etc for protein, desi ghee for fat. “However, if you are a vegetarian, you have to do more workouts compared to non-vegetarian,” he explains.
In 2020 and this year, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, no devotee has been allowed to participate in the Rath Yatra festival. Only the servitors are pulling the chariots. So, the importance of Gochikar has increased. He has been seen pulling the chariots on the Grand Road.
“Usually, we, ‘Pratihari’ servitors, were serving the Lords inside the temple. However, due to Covid-19, I got this golden opportunity to serve the Lords at Grand Road too. I will never forget this moment in my life,” he said.
Sharing his experience during last year’s Rath Yatra, he said, till the last moment, no one knew that the festival would be held. As a sudden announcement was made for the festival and there was a fear among the people about Covid-19, a limited number of servitors were there to pull the chariots.
“The chariots cannot move with only 300-odd persons. It was due to the divine power of Lord Jagannath, the chariot moved,” he said.
“What is the use of the body if it is not used in the service of Lord Jagannath. Earlier, there was no police force or administration, during that time, only the servitors had given protection to Jagannath,” the Bahubali sevayat said.
All three holy chariots of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra had been parked near the Gundicha Temple to be rolled out on the Grand Road of Puri ahead of the Bahuda Yatra rituals. Pahandi rituals of all three deities were under way.
Like last year, the festival is being held without devotees due to Covid-19 pandemic. Only servitors, police personnel and concerned officials have been allowed on the Grand Road during the festival.