Mrunal Manmay Dash

The great tree (Mahakalpabata) at Achyutananda Shrine in Nemal, Cuttack has lost all its majestic green cover. All leaves of the grand old banyan tree have fallen in the last three days instilling fear of the apocalypse among the devotees.

The devotees along with the shrine administration expressed caution at the sudden change of tree’s status. While the devotees fear, something bad is going to happen, the Mahant (Chief) of the shrine said, it is the sign of the inevitable apocalypse which the humans have brought upon themselves.

“This is very painful to see. The tree was so green, full of life. And now it has become pale and lifeless. This is a sign of something bad,” said a woman devotee.

Similarly, another devotee said, “This is Achyutananda’s way of saying the world has come to an end and everything will be reset by him. Every tree including this banyan tree becomes lush green during monsoons, but this year it is just the opposite.”

However, the local horticulture department rubbished the apocalypse theory and blamed the fall of the leaves on a certain type of pest (Caterpillar) infestation attacking the tree.

Speaking to reporters, a Horticulture official, Hemanta Kumar Samal said, “This is a result of caterpillars sucking the juice out of the leaves and making them dry, following which they fall.”

“There is no threat to the tree. We are spraying pesticide which will kill the caterpillars and leaves will soon grow on the tree,” Samal added.

Following the department’s intervention, the rituals have been suspended and the devotees barred from visiting to the shrine.

It is pertinent to mention here that there are several other banyan trees at the shrine but they are surprisingly spared by the caterpillars. Only the great banyan tree just in front of the shrine has been affected.