Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 12:
All roads led to Gadakuntunia village under Balianta block on the outskirts of Odisha capital as hundreds of devotees made a beeline for the spot where the daru (neem tree) selected for the idol of Lord Sudarshan is located.
People started trickling in since the wee hours today, soon after the formal announcement about the location of the daru for Lord Sudarshan was made around midnight on Saturday. By afternoon, the crowd had swelled to more than a thousand as people from far and wide descended on this nondescript village that has now etched its name into the pantheon of the Cult of Jagannath.
Religious fervour ran high as people were seen paying obeisance to the daru by lying prostrate before it.
An old local servitor of the village, who had been worshipping the tree since 1999, said he had a feeling that the tree is meant for the Lord since the time he first came to the village,
“There was nothing in this area except this tree when I had first arrived at the village. Not a single leaf of this huge tree was damaged in the devastating super cyclone in 1999,” he said, tears rolling down his cheeks.
The ailing old servitor, who could not see the daru after hearing the news, said he used to take bath at the Kuakhai river every day since his stay at the village.
“As there were snakes living around this tree, people of the village used to avoid this route. But watching this tree and its symptoms, I had a distinct feeling that it is meant for the Lord. I started offering flowers and water to the tree everyday after taking bath at the river,” he said.
“I am very happy to hear that the daru for the Lord has been found in our village,” said a village woman, scarcely able to hide her glee.
“After hearing the news at about 2 AM, we rushed to the place this morning to offer worship,” said another woman of the village.
Suresh Mohapatra, the chief administrator of Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) who made the announcement last night, himself arrived at the village this morning with senior officials.
Among others, the Banajaga Yatra dalapati (team leader) Haladhar Dasmohapatra, Twin City police commissioner RP Sharma were also present at the site.
Tight security arrangements have been made at the place with deployment of four platoons of police force to maintain law and order.
“After receiving information from the Banajaga dalapati in the late on Saturday night, I rushed to the village early this morning along with Puri SP, IG and the twin city Police Commissioner. We have brought with us iron barricades which are being erected around the neem tree on the Kuakhai river embankmentto ensure that the tree is not damaged and the devotees are able to have a darshan of the daru from a safe distance,” Mohapatra told reporters here.
He said the temple administration after a discussion with the Daitapatis about the arrangements to be made.
“The Daitapatis would arrive here on Monday afternoon. Yajna and other rituals will be performed near the daru the next day. The yajna would be performed for two days after which the daru would be cut. For transportation of the daru to Puri, we have made arrangements for wooden cart (sagadi) to be made of banyan and tamarind tree. We will cut the logs of these trees to size at the government saw mill at Khapuria in Cuttack. I hope the daru would be taken to Puri by April 19-20,” he added.
The chief administrator, however, emphatically denied reports doing the rounds in a section of the media that the darus for the three deities – Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra – had also been finalised.
“They have informed us only about Lord Sudarsan’s daru in writing till now; nothing has been finalized on the darus for the other three deities. People should not believe in rumors about the location and identities of darus being shown on different channels and refrain from taking notice of it,” said Mohapatra.
The Banajaga Yatra team will finalize the other three darus and will inform the SJTA about it within the next two to three days, said the chief administrator.
“They will inform us about the darus for the remaining three deities after finalizing among themselves within two to three days. After a formal communication is received from them, the temple administration will announce the location of the darus with a gap of seven days between each of them. After Lord Sudarshan’s daru, it will be the turn of Lord Balabhadra’s, then Devi Subhadra and finally Lord jagannath. The announcement will be made after they give us in writing. Till now we haven’t received any intimation as yet,” said Mohapatra.
Talking about the security arrangements, Twin City police commissioner RP Sharma said keeping the massive turnout of devotees in the village in view, 24 platoons of police force would be deployed. Besides, iron barricades would be erected around the trees soon.
“Since rituals would be held near the tree, the area would be levelled. Besides, arrangements for the stay of the Daitapatis and the police forces at the village would be made. The Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) and the Central Electricity Supply Utility (CESU) would take necessary steps for 24-hour supply of water and electricity to the village respectively,” Sharma said.
He also said the commissionerate police would set up a temporary control room at the village to monitor the situation.