Odisha village turns into pilgrimage spot

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Bhubaneswar: A village on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar has turned into a pilgrimage spot with thousands of devotees thronging there to have a glimpse of the daru (neem tree) to be used for making Lord Sudarshan’s idol.

After the Banajaga team identified the ‘holy wood’ at Gadakuntaik village on Sunday to carve the idol of Lord Sudarshan ahead of the Nabakalebara festival, devotees are making a beeline for the spot which took a giant leap from obscurity to fame.

The Banajaga team is in search of daru for making the idol of Lord Jagannath and his siblings ahead of the Nabakalebar festival to be held at the Jagannath temple in Puri in June this year.

The Banajaga team starts its one-and-a-half-month journey in search of neem trees to be used for making the idols of Lord Jagannath and his siblings. The team comprises of about 130 sevayats (servitors) of Jagannath temple besides other support staff and government officials.

As per the long-standing tradition, they first worship Maa Mangala at Kakatpur Mangala Temple in Puri.

It is said the deity appears to them in their dreams revealing the location of the holy trees.

The neem tree is a medicinal plant and can last long. People also worship the tree in Odisha, said Laxmidhar Pujapanda, PRO of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA).

“Jagannath is worshipped as Daru ‘Brahma. ‘Daru in Sankrit, means wood or timber and Brahma means the all pervading soul, the universal life force, the God of gods. It has been said earlier that the idol of Jagannath is made of a log of wood. It is the margosa tree (neem tree), the trunk of which is used to fabricate the body of Jagannath,” said the website of SJTA.

Since Tuesday was the Maha Vishuba Sankranti (beginning of Odia New Year), thousands of people rushed to the sacred place to seek Lord Sudarshan’s blessings.

The first day of the Odia New Year is considered an extremely auspicious occasion.

While Amba Pana that includes mango pulp, is offered to Lord Jagannath to convey New Year wishes, reference of the new Odia almanac also begins from this day, said SJTA sources.

“The wood will be chopped up after performing some rituals at the place. Since many people are coming to the place to get Lord Sudarshan’s glimpse, we have put up barricades to avoid any incidents,” said SJTA chief Suresh Mohapatra.

He said the announcement of the other three logs for Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra would be made soon.

Bhubaneswar Police Commissioner R.P. Sharma said adequate security personnel have been deployed at the spot to control the crowd and ensure free flow of traffic.

The Banajaga team has identified some neem trees and they would select the perfect trees to make the idols. The neem tree that would be used for making the idol must bear holy symbols like ‘shankha’ (conch shell), ‘chakra’ (wheel), ‘gada’ (mace) and ‘padma’ (lotus).

The last Nabakalebara festival took place in 1996.

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