Nabakalebara- Changing the statues of Jagannath Temple in 2015
The replacement of the Statues of, Balabhadra, Subhadra, Lord Jagannath, and Sudarshan Chakra is a ritual believed to be followed from the time of Mahabharat, after the death of Lord Krishna. This change is effected within a gap of 12 to 19 years after lunar calculations. The placing of ‘Tattva Padarth” or the Living force of Lord Krishna from the old statue to the new for centuries is a living tradition. The procedure followed and the rituals observed are prescribed and followed by the family of the head priest said to be descendants of the priest when the temple was first established.
As the soul changes its body by being born again so the Statues are changed. The entire procedure is fascinating and as 2015 is the year of the change, the procedure started in the month of March. The search for the neem (Margosa) trees starts with the priests praying to Goddess Mangala of Kakatpur for guidance as to which direction should they proceed to look for the trees. It is said that she indicates the direction in a dream to the head priest. Designated people then leave to look for the said tree. The chosen tree has to have certain symbols before it can be accepted. It should have 4 branches symbolic of the 4 arms of Lord Vishnu. It should be close to a water body with an anthill and have a snake pit in the roots. The tree should have no creepers climbing it and no bird’s nest, but should have a white owl on it. Another amazing requirement is that the 4 attributes of Vishnu’s natural impressions namely Sudarshan Chakra/ Spinning Disc, Shankha/Conch shell, Gada/Mace, and Padma/Lotus should be visible on the trunk of the tree. Once identified and all religious rituals followed, the tree is cut and loaded on bullock carts to be transported to Puri. The rest of the leaves and branches are buried in the ground. The people for each ritual are designated and the entire administration swings into action to provide security. The bullock carts are pulled along the way by devotees till Puri and people buy new sarees and cloth to spread on the path for the carts to go over. These are then kept in the house as treasured items.
Once the logs reach the temple they are kept in a designated area called “Koili (burial ground) Vaikuntham (heaven)” This is also where the old Idols are buried. The statues are carved by the temple carpenters in secrecy and the only food consumed is from the temple. Once carved, the statues are placed by the descendants of the Daityapati’s family face to face with the old statues. All this is done with great secrecy and for the transformation, the 3 Daityapatis’ have to be blindfolded and their hands covered with cloth from Lord Jagannath’s clothes. The transformation happens in the middle of the night with the ‘Tattva Padarth” being transformed into the new Jagannath statue. The old statues are carried out and buried during the night before dawn. All the statues go into their old respective graves one on top of the other. It is believed that if anybody other than the select group witnesses the ceremony they die. So much so that the Government of Odisha orders a complete blackout, on this night in Puri. On the morning of the second day, the Deities are installed on the pedestal called ‘Ratna Singhasan” and religious ceremonies begin. Darshan is allowed to the general public and on the third day the Yatra begins.
To date no Daityapati has been able to describe his feeling while handling the ‘Tattva Padarth” during Transformation. They cannot see or touch it as their eyes and hands are covered, but experience a very powerful feeling difficult to describe while handling the ‘Tattva Padarth” or life force.