Tarabali Paata: Cosmos as Swathe in Nabakalebara

Asit Mohanty & Sib Kumar Das

Like the ‘Gitagovind Khandua’ mentioned in an earlier episode of this series – http://odishasuntimes.com/134188/gitagovinda-khandua-and-nabakalebara/ – the ‘Tarabali paata’, a long piece of ‘Khandua silk’ showcasing the master craftsmanship of Odia weavers, is also a spiritual metaphor. It hints at the cosmos of macrocosm as well as microcosm. As it is used during rituals conducted in utter secrecy inside the temple, the public knows precious little about it.

Tarabali pata

In his book ‘Puri Boli’ on the dialect and etymology of language used in Sri Jagannath temple and Puri, researcher and purohit of the temple Siddheswar Mohapatra has mentioned ‘Tarabali paata’. According to him, this ‘Khandua silk’ has stars as flowers woven all over it. Although Mr Mohapatra opines that ‘Tarabali paata’ is a forgotten element of the Nabakalebara rituals, in reality it is still in use.

Gopinath Das, a traditional weaver of Rautapatana village in Khurda district, who wove various silk clothes for the 2015 Nabakalebara, claims ‘Tarabali paata’ is still part of rituals. His family has provided ‘Tarabali paata’ for this Nabakelabara, he says. It may be noted that all silk clothes used for the deities of Sri Jagannath temple are woven at Rautapatana in Khurda district and Nuapatana in Cuttack district.

Weaving of ‘Tarabali paata’ is done with total devotion and dedication. Weaving of ‘Tarabali paata’ starts on the day of Akshaya Tritiya., the very day construction work of chariots for the famous Rath Yatra of Sri Jagannath starts. Seven ‘Tarabali paata’ of various dimensions are woven. Four of them are squares of two feet length; two are of 24 cubit in length and two cubits wide. Out of the rest three, one is of eight cubit long and three cubit wide, another is 14 cubits long and two cubits wide and the last one is of 12 cubits in length and two cubits in width. But when and how these are used still remains a mystery.

Some researchers of Sri Jagannath temple and its rituals have claimed the newly constructed idols wear ‘Tarabali paata’ when they are carried in traditional ‘pahandi’ from the ‘nirman mandap’ or place of construction to the ‘anasara pindi’ inside the temple. But this is denied by senior ‘Daitapati’ servitors, who take part in this ritual performed in complete secrecy.

According to sources, the ‘brahma padartha’ placed inside the four deities of Sri Jagannath temple are wrapped with four small pieces of ‘Tarabali paata’. The four small square pieces of ‘Tarabali paata’ woven at Rautapatana village seem to provide a clue. ‘Brahma padartha’ or core material of idols is considered to be their soul, which are transferred from old idols to the new ones, to depict reincarnation as per Indian philosophy. According to sources, other larger pieces of ‘Tarabali paata’ are used during the process of transfer of ‘brahma padartha’.

Manifested cosmos is considered to be the sheath of omnipresent Almighty. This is depicted in Bhagavad Gita as well as Bhagavatam. It is believed every pore of the body of the Almighty bears bunches of universes. This is the metaphor for the macrocosm in Indian philosophy. Similarly our body is also considered a cosmos at the microcosm level. As per seers, both cosmoses,  macrocosm and microcosm, are representation of each other. It is a clue to the omnipresence of divinity. ‘Like ‘brahma padartha’ within idols wrapped in representation of cosmos through ‘Tarabali paata’, our body cannot exist unless it is wrapped in the cosmos of microcosm. Every existence is wrapped in the cosmos of macrocosm. So, the ‘Tarabali paata’ bearing numerous stars is an attempt to make us remember that the Omnipresent Almighty exists as the cosmos of macrocosm encompassing us as well as the microcosmic cosmos within.


Next: Transfer of soul during Nabakalebara


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