Transfer of ‘soul’ during Nabakalebara

Asit Mohanty & Sib Kumar Das

Replacement of the old idols with new ones takes place in all temples when the old ones deteriorate with time. But in no other temple does this idol replacement have a metaphorical ritual heralding the journey of soul from old decaying bodies to new ones. Each of the four ‘daru’ or wooden deities of Sri Jagannath temple has ‘Brahma padartha’ hidden in a closet inside the idol. The true identity of these ‘Brahma padartha’ or core material is yet to be disclosed. It is considered to be the soul of these idols.

The three 'badagrahis', who performed the 'brahma parivartan' ritual this Nabakalebara
The three ‘badagrahis’, who performed the ‘brahma parivartan’ ritual this Nabakalebara

The process of ‘Brahma padartha’ transfer is done in utmost secrecy. But information from various sources provides a fair idea about this all-important ritual. This Nabakalebera, some ‘daitapati’ servitors breached centuries-old temple protocol and revealed what went on inside on the fateful night to the media.

Preparations for ‘Brahma padartha’ transfer starts after end of ‘badasimhara’ or ritual of slumber of the deities on Ashadha Krushna Chaturdashi night of Nabakalebara year. All devotees and servitors are removed from the premises of Sri Jagannath temple except the ‘daitapati’ and ‘pati’ servitors who take part in this secret ritual. All doors of the temple are shut down. ‘Deula karana’ and ‘chadhau karana’ servitors, also remain inside the temple premises as representatives of the Gajapati King of Puri, who heads the temple management. They, however, remain near the ‘Patitapabana’ idol at the ‘Simhadwara’ (Lion’s Gate) of the temple. ‘Deula karana’ holds a ‘patakhanda’ sword in hand, while ‘chadhau karana’ wields a knife along with a sword.

Not all ‘daitapati’ and ‘pati’ servitors take part in the actual process of the transfer of ‘Brahma padartha’ from the old idols to the new. Only the ‘pati mohapatra’ servitor and three ‘daitapati’ ‘badagrahis’ perform the ultra secret task of ‘Brahma padartha’ transfer at the ‘anasara pindi’. As per the record of rights (RoR) of Sri Jagannath temple, anyone of these four servitors can send in his representative to perform the ritual on his behalf at the ‘anasara pindi’. This provision in the RoR, the ‘pati mohapatra’ had deputed his brother to do the ‘Brahma padartha’ transfer this Nabakaebara.

The wooden idols of Sri Jagannath temple have a special covering called ‘saptabarana’ that represents various components of the human body like muscles, blood skin etc. ‘Saptabarana’ also represents the ‘saptakosha’ of Indian philosophy. This ‘saptabarana’ is removed from the old idols two days ahead to prepare them for the ‘Brahma padartha’ transfer ritual. The bare idols are kept covered with fine silk or ‘paata’ clothes during this period.

‘Pati mohapatra’ servitor or his representative is the key person during the ‘Brahma padartha’ transfer process. ‘Pati mohapatra’ happens to be the ‘badagrahi’ for Sri Sudashan. He, along with ‘daitapati’ ‘badagrahi’ servitors for Sri Jagannath, Sri Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra or their representatives, performs ‘Brahma transfer’, the most secret ritual of Nabakalebara.

Earlier, there were myths and misconceptions regarding this process. It was believed that these four designated servitors have their eyes under wraps and hands covered with silk clothes when they transfer ‘Brahma padartha’ from old idols to new ones. But recent evidence has proved it to be false propaganda.

During this secret ritual, old and new idols are placed face to face on the ‘anasara pindi’. Visibility is reduced to the minimum as the only source of light happens to be a single diya burning at the place. ‘Brahmakapata’ or doors of the inner sanctum of the four idols are opened up by the four respective ‘badagrahis’, including the ‘pati mohapatra’ or their representatives. ‘Pati mohapatra’ takes out ‘Brahma padartha’ from the secret chambers inside the old idols called ‘brahmakothari’. The old ‘Tarabali paata’ cloth covering, sandal, tulsi and white flower layers on ‘Brahma padartha’ are removed. Then they are placed on four specially prepared small decorative stools named ‘brahmakhatuli’. Cushion of silk cloth and silver caskets are placed on the four ‘brahmakhatulis’ for the ‘Brahma Padartha’.

The ‘Pati mohapatra’ servitor performs the symbolic consecration or ‘mahasnana’ of four ‘Brahma padartha’. It is followed by food offerings or ‘pantibhoga’. Various scented materials like kasturi, sandal, kapur, tulsi and juhi flowers are offered to ‘Brahma padartha’. Along with these aromatic offerings, four ‘Brahma padartha’ are again wrapped up in new ‘Tarabali paata’ coverings. Each ‘Brahma padartha’ is installed in the ‘brahmakothari’ of the respective new idols. All this is done by the ‘pati mohapatra’ servitor. Then the ‘daitapati’ ‘badagrahi’ servitors close the ‘brahmakapata’ crafted out of a single piece of ‘nyasadaru’ described in an earlier piece.

Once this process ends, the other ‘daitapati’ servitors waiting outside reach the ‘anasarapindi’ to have the first darshan of the new idols. They get the first touch of new idols and provide offerings called ‘brahmabheti’ or ‘brahmadana’.


Next: ‘Brahma Padartha’: The Unsolved Mystery of Nabakalebara






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