Young Daitapatis get tips on Banajaga Yatra from seniors

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Puri, Mar 14:

The two-day long training camp for young Daitapati servitors of the Shree Jagannath Temple organized by the Daitapati Nijog began in Odisha’s pilgrim town Puri today.

Pic: Biswaranjan Mishra
Pic: Biswaranjan Mishra

The training camp has been organized to teach young Daitapatis about the practices and rituals involved in Banajaga Yatra, the search for darus (logs of neem trees used for carving of new idols of the Lords) known as the opening chapter of the elaborate Nabakalebara ritual of of Lord Jagannath, scheduled to start on March 29.

Fifty young members of the Daitapati community will be part of the Banajaga Yatra team.

The training camp, funded by the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), is aimed at passing on knowledge about rituals and secret practices associated with Nabakalebara to young members of the Daita community by senior members of the community. Since Nabakalebara of the Lords is taking place after 19 long years, young members of the community below the age of 25 would have percious little idea about the processes, customs and rituals associated with it.

“Senior Daitapatis will impart us knowledge about the practices involved. We are excited. We will learn how to be in the service of the Lord and conduct His yatra smoothly,” said Kirti Dashmohapatra, a young Daitapati.

“We will start from the temple and go to the king’s palace. After the sadibandha ritual (tying of saree on the head of the servitor by the king as symbolic recognition of the fact that the servitor is blessed to perform the assigned job/ritual), we will leave the palace for Jagannath Ballav Mutt. After staying at the Mutt for one and a half days, we will proceed for Deuli Mutt at Kakatpur. We were told about what to do; what not to do; where to halt during our barefoot march to Deuli Mutt,” said another youngster Amit Dasmohapatra from the Daitapati community.

The pre-lunch session, the inaugural session of the two day training camp, was attended by Law minister Arun Sahoo and SJTA chief administrator Suresh Chandra Mohapatra apart from senior Daitapatis.

Both Sahoo and Mohapatra advised the youngsters about the ordeal of walking barefoot to Deuli Mutt in Kakatpur during the Banajaga Yatra and the austerity involved in it.

“There is a need to train youngsters about the practices and rituals. Senior Daitapatis have organized the camp for training the younger generation about the practices,” said Law Minister Arun Sahoo speaking to the media after coming out of the training camp.

“We told them how they will be conducting themselves and leading a life of rigour and austerity during their 45-day stay outside their homes while on the Banajaga Yatra to search for the darus. The other part of the training, which involves passing on  of knowledge about secret rituals and practices, will be conducted by senior Daitapatis later as no outsiders can be privy to such knowledge,” said Suresh Chandra Mohapatra, chief Administrator SJTA.

It cannot be said for sure when exactly the tradition of Nabakalebara began in Purushottam Kshetra or Puri. But the tomes dealing with the principles of construction of images tell us about the lives of images built with jewel, metal, wood and clay.

According to these tomes, images built with jewel have a life of ten thousand years, metal images have a life of one thousand years, wooden images have a life ranging between twelve and eighteen years and clay images have a life of only one year.

Accordingly, the Nabakalebara of the wooden images worshipped in Puri usually takes place almost after every nineteen years.

Padmashri Satyanarayan Rajguru, the celebrated scholar on Sri Jagannath, has written about a Nabakalebara being performed in the year 1370. He has also written that the first Nabakalebara of Sri Jagannath had been performed in the Srimandir (Jagannath Temple) in the year 1308.

However, according to verifiable records, the first Nabakalebara had been performed in 1574.

The second Nabakalebara of the sixteenth century had been performed in 1593. But in the seventeenth century, five Nabakalebaras had been performed,in the years 1608, 1627, 1646, 1665 and 1684.

The first Nabakalebara of the next century was held in 1711 and thereafter, four more were held at intervals of nineteen years.

Once again in the nineteenth century, five Nabakalebaras were held, each after a gap of 19 years from the previous one.

Thus, these had been performed in the years 1809, 1828, 1855, 1874 and 1893. But in the last century, i.e., the twentieth century, the Nabakalebara had been performed six times, in the years 1912, 1931, 1950, 1969, 1977 and 1996.

And out of the Nabakalebaras performed in the twentieth century, the one held in 1996 was the last of the century.

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