Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Kanakpur, Apr 25:
Biswakarma (carpenter) servitors and local wood cutters are chopping off branches and leaves from the giant neem tree in front of the Maa Sarala shrine in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district, which has been identified as the daru (neem tree with divine signs and special attributes) for the carving of the new idol for Lord Balabhadra during the Nabakalebara.
The divine tree fell to the ground here at 12.47 AM today to the chants of Jai Jagannath, Hari bol, ululation, beats of mridangas and cymbals in the presence of thousands of devotees.
The felling began at around 5 PM yesterday after completion of a secret ritual at its base following completion of purnaahuti and puspanjali at the mahayagna – the ritual that transformed it to mahadaru, the timber out of which the earthly body of the Lord Balabhadra will be carved, to be later infused with the brahma of the Lord .
Nearly 170 wood cutters, including Biswakarma servitors, were engaged in the marathon felling exercise with iron axes after the tree was symbolically touched by Vidyapati and Biswabasu of the Banajaga team with gold and silver axes respectively.
Once the tree fell to the ground, the Daitapatis, stotriya Brahmins and others in the Banajaga team, who were on a nirjala (without water) fast since Wednesday night, had havisyanna (a specially cooked vegetarian meal) for their dinner.
The trunk of the felled tree will leave Kanakpur and head for Puri latest by April 28. It will be carried to Puri in a sagadi (wooden cart with four wheels to be made of either tendu, banyan or tamarind wood) to be pulled by devotees using ropes
On Friday, stotriya Brahmins chanted Patala Narasimha mantras and offered oblations to the sacred fire of the mahayagna while Daitapati sevayats chanted the same mantra and other mantras at the Sabarapalli (the camp where the Daitapatis were camping).
Unnecessary parts of the tree will be buried in a pit today, the ritual called as patali. Thousands of devotees are still queuing up at the site to have a glimpse of the mahadaru-the felled tree.
Devotees are offering wicker lamps and are prostrating in obeisance to the mahadaru that will adorn the ratnasimhasana at the Shree Mandir as Lord Balabhadra for 19 long years till joda asadha occurs in the Hindu calendar again and it’s time for its replacement. Older devotees are considering it to be the last such experience in their lives.