Asit Mohanty & Sibkumar Das
The importance of plants in this world is depicted at the very start of the Nabakalebara rituals. Plants are also living entities like humans. But humans usually fail to accept plants as equal entities of divinity. Nabakalebara rituals begin with a direct communion between Sri Jagannath and the ‘daru’ (trees) to be used for construction of deities. Human servitors become couriers of this communion through ‘agyaanmaala’.
As per tradition, the elaborate rituals of the Nabakalebara commence after the ‘madhyanha dhupa’ or mid-day food offering to deities of Sri Jagannath temple on Chaitra Shukla Dashami day of Indian calendar. The Pati Mohapatra servitor, believed to be the descendant of Vidyapati, the priest of King Indradyumna as per mythology, collects four garlands of flower used on the idols of Sri Jagannath, Sri Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Sri Sudarshan. These garlands become the symbolic ‘agyaanmaala’ or directive of the deities.
The three ‘badagrahis’ (body protectors) of Sri Jagannath, Sri Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra receive three ‘agyaanmaala’. These three are the ‘Daitapati’ servitors. Pati Mohapatra, who serves as ‘Badagrahi’ of Sri Sudarshan, keeps the concerned ‘agyaanmaala’ with him. But these ‘agyaanmaala’ are not meant for these servitors.
It is noteworthy that after identification of the neem trees destined to become ‘daru’, these four ‘agyaanmaalas’ of the four deities are offered to the respective trees. The ‘Agyaanmaala’ of each idol is offered to the tree from which the same idol is to be carved. It hints at the importance of the neem tree that represents the entire flora of this world in the eyes of Sri Jagannath. It is obvious that the existence of plants is more important than us humans for survival of life on this earth.
These four ‘agyaanmaalas’ are transported to Deuli Math at Kakatpur by a bullock cart. One after another, four ‘daru vriksha’ or trees meant to be ‘daru’ are selected. The designated ‘agyaanmaalas’ are offered to these trees. The message behind it is that servitors should not think that they are the discoverers or identifiers of ‘daru vrikshya’ for Nabakalebara. They should instead consider themselves to be the messengers of the Almighty during the process of Nabakalebara rituals. It is hinted from the fact that the ‘Daitapati’ and Pati Mohapatra servitors who take part in this whole process as ‘badagrahis’ are nothing but carriers or couriers of ‘agyaanmaala’ to the ‘daru’ trees.
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