Suryakant Jena

Puri: With just a month before the once-in-a-generation occasion of the Nagarjuna Besha of Lord Jagannath, sculptors and artisans have initiated preparations for the rare attire rituals. Nagarjuna Besha of the Lords was last held in 1994.

As per tradition, it is celebrated when the Panchuka (last five days of Kartika month) is observed as six days. This year, due to an extra month after Ashwin (Adhik Maas), the special besha of the Holy Trinity will be held on November 27, the extra day (sixth day of Panchuka).

The deities will be dressed like warriors with golden attire of several weapons including arrows, bows, Hala (plough), Chakra (wheel) and Musala (mace).

Besha silpis, the artisans in charge of designing the special costumes of the Lords will begin crafting of the attire from Monday. Various types of raw materials like Santara Patta, thermocol have already been procured for the designing exercise.

The artisan community is quite excited to see this extraordinary occasion unfold before their eyes. Many of them who will take part in the process for the first time in their life have expressed their delight.

"I am really happy to be witnessing this rarest of the rare besha of Mahaprabhu. I don't know much work because I had never taken part in this ritual before so I will fully cooperate with the senior artisans and sculptors who have the experience," said a carpenter Basant Rana.

As per mythology, historians say the besha is celebrated commemorate the killing of Sahashrarjuna by Parsuram, the warrior incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

With winter season about to make its onset and Covid pandemic restrictions still in place, devotees and culture experts are wary that the occasion will be a low key affair without any expected congregation of lakhs of devotees from all around the world.

However, many are hopeful that the government will make necessary arrangements so that people across the globe will not miss the rare besha of the Lords.

Madhav Pujapanda, member of the Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee said "If Covid-19 restrictions continue to remain in place, the administration will go ahead with its plan to organise the besha without any devotees. As people may not be allowed to enter the shrine, the Patitapabana, representative deity of the Lord Jagannath situated in the Singha Dwara will be adorned with the special attire so that devotees can witness the besha outside."

Jagannath culture expert Naresh Chandra Das said that if government can adopt alternative measures like allowing less number of devotees into the temple at a time to ensure Covid guidelines remain intact, I think people will not have to miss this chance of their lifetime.

Meanwhile, with the Kartika Brata set to begin from Monday, the Puri Jagannath Temple administration has finalised all ritual timings of the shrine. Due to the pandemic protocols, the pilgrim town is exhibiting a deserted look this year as there is a ban on congregation of devotees and also entry into the temple.

Habishyalis who throng the temple in lakhs every year to mark this holy period of abstinence from worldly affairs are a dejected lot due to the restrictions over the virus infection scare.

"I would suggest government relaxes some norms to allow habishyalis place to observe their rituals around the temple if not their entry into the shrine," said Madhav Mohapatra.