Puri: The Shankaracharya of the Govardhan Peeth (Puri) traditionally plays an integral role in some of the rituals associated with the annual sojourn of the deities, Rath Yatra, especially before the procession starts off. He visits the chariots with his disciples before they are pulled for the divine journey.
As per the protocol, Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati moved from one chariot to another, accompanied by his disciples and servitors. While one person moved ahead of the seer by sprinkling sacred water, others remained as a guard in three different directions. This is because no one can touch the Shankaracharya as he is considered an incarnation of Lord Shiva.
The Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD, perhaps in 810 AD, visited Puri and established a mutt known as Govardhan Peeth (one of the four monasteries founded by him). The Adi Shankaracharya introduced the ritualistic procedure in the temple. He by using his inner eyes found the Trinity, Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra, and Lord Jagannath, being kept in “Patali” in order to save the idols from invaders.
The Adi Shankaracharya informed the Gajapati King, and the idols were recovered and again placed in the temple. Since then, the temple rituals are done as per the Shankaracharya’s guidelines.
Shankaracharya of Puri is the final authority to solve any ritual-related disputes at the 12th-century Jagannath Temple.