Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 15:
Hectic lobbying by the powerful and differences within the Daitapatis have marred the selection of the darus for the making of idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra in the run up to the grand Nabakaebara festival of the deities in Odisha’s pilgrim city of Puri.
While the daru for the making of Lord Sudarshan has already been announced, sources said serious differences have cropped up among Daitapatis over the selection of neem trees to be assigned as darus for the remaining three deities.
While secretary of the Daitapati Nijog Premananda Das Mohapatra had informed the media that the darus for the remaining three deities had already been identified and finalized in Jagatsinghpur district, the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) has repudiated the claim.
Reliable sources said the dalpati of the Banajaga Yatra team Haladhar Das Mohapatra has submitted a final list to the SJTA on the selection of the darus for the remaining three deities. While one faction among the Daitapatis is in favour of the list, another is reportedly opposing it. Some from the group said that the list may undergo a change, if needed.
Many Daitapatis in the Banajaga team, the younger ones in particular, wonder what was the compelling reason for selection of darus for two deities in a particular area of Jagatsinghpur district when ten neem trees with all required attributes spread over the districts of Dhenkanal, Cuttack, Jagatsinghpur, Khordha, Puri, Jajpur and Nayagarh had already been shortlisted.
Sources said the selection of the darus for Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra in Jagatsinghpur district is the result of hectic lobbying by influential persons, including ruling party politicians.
Senior ministers too are reportedly puzzled over the selection of two neem trees in a particular locality of the district. An established institution and some senior politicians are said to be behind the influence peddling.
Sources in the state secretariat said Law Minister Arun Sahoo discussed the matter with SJTA chief administrator Suresh Chandra Mohapatra and impressed upon him the need for transparency in the selection. Reports of lobbying in the selection would hurt the religious feelings of believers, Sahoo is learnt to have told Mohapatra.
A senior Daitapati revealed on condition of anonymity that as per the list submitted by dalapati Haladhar Das Mohapatra to the SJTA, the neem tree to be used as daru for making of the new idol for Lord Jagannath has been identified and finalized at Raghunathpur, Lord Balabhadra’s daru near Maa Sarala’s shrine and Devi Subhadra’s daru at Adanga Gada – all in Jagatsinghpur district.
Knowledgeable sources said prior to the announcement of the daru for Lord Sudarshan’s idol at the meeting at Deuli Mutt on Saturday night which extended past midnight, a faction within the Daitapati community was strongly opposed to the decision on the selection and identification of the darus.
As rival factions engaged in wordy duels over the selection, the SJTA chief administrator left the meeting in a huff past midnight and the selection of the daru for Lord Sudarshan was announced to the media by the dalpati Haladhar Das Mohapatra, which was formally announced by the SJTA chief administrator early on Sunday morning.
A senior Daitapati who belongs to the faction that is opposing the list has, however, said the dalapati’s decision can be changed if the need arises. He was of the opinion that the selection of the location of the darus has been influenced by pressures from the ruling party.
President of the Daitapati Nijog and upadalapati (deputy leader) of the Banajaga Yatra team has said that he doesn’t believe that the selection of the darus has been influenced by lobbying and added that in case the debate on the lobbying gets shriller, the location of the darus may change since there are many eligible ones.
Undeterred by the SJTA chief administrator’s emphatic clarification that the darus for the three remaining deities are yet be finalised, the Jagatsinghpur district administration has geared up and has made arrangements near the darus believed to have been selected.