Puri, the south-east seashore town in Odisha is the spiritual capital and one of the four dhams has always been known the Rath Yatra or the Chariot festival. This year happens to be Nabakalebara (Naba-New and Kalebara- Body) that comes once in 15- 19 years (the last Nabakalebara happened in 1996.
This year sees Joda Ashadha– Two Ashadha months back to back as per Hindu calendar), the time when idols Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan (celestial wheel ) are replaced by a new set of idols at the Jagannath Temple in Puri which is also known as Shree Khetra. ‘Shree’ means ‘Mahalaxmi’, the wife of Lord Jagannath and ‘Khetra’ – Kingdom.
The onset of the Nabakalebara starts with the Banajaga Jatra, which began this year on 29th March with the search for the sacred wood for the idols. Gajapati Dibya Singh Dev, the 1st first servitor of Lord Jagannath gives the go-ahead for the same. The greatness of this whole event is, no one knows where to find the sacred neem wood, but if traditions are to be believed then the priests of Lord Jagannath Temple come to Kakatpur Mangala and pray asking to guide them. The idols are created from sacred wood known as ‘Daru Brahma’. The whole religious extravananza is a long ritual spreading over more than 65 days. Nabakalebara primarily marks that grand cleberation when Lord changing His body-like undergoing re-birth. The old are discarded by burying at Koili Vaikuntha (Koili -Burial ground and Vaikuntha-Heaven).
The carving of the images is done in a special enclosure inside the temple premises with utmost confidentiality and not anyone is allowed to take peep, not even the head priest of the temple. Once inside the enclosure no one is allowed to consume anything (eat, drink or smoke). The whole process takes around 21 days and in these days the carvers can’t leave the temple premises. Lord’s Mahaprasad is what they have for dinner every night. Devotees sing devotional songs day and night known as “Akhand Bhajan” outside the Koili Baikuntha along with shlokas being chanted from the Vedas.
Once done they are carried to the inner sanctum and kept placing the old deities. The idols are carried only by the descendants of Dayitapati family and all the rituals related to Great Transformation are done by them as they were the first worshipper of the Lord Jagannath. This takes place 3 days before Rath Yatra and the Great Transformation is completed with “Brahman” or the life force being transformed to the new idols from the old ones.
Unlike the idols the Chariots are are made every year. On the day of ‘Akshaya Tritiya‘ the woods are brought to the ‘Ratha Khala’ (a place where the work is undertaken). The construction is much extensive work with ‘Parswa Debata’ (deities installed on sides), ‘Dwarapala’ (watchmen), ‘Ghoda’ (horse), ‘Sarathi’ (charioteer) etc all newly built for the Nabakalebara celebration.
The magical land of Lord Jagannath will simply leave you enchanted once you are here as the holy town is filled with vigour and life during Rath Yatra. Don’t miss the Mahaprasad which is Chappan bhog (56 food items)
Odhisha tourism has a new website http://www.nabakalebara.gov.in/ which will give more detailed info on the this religious extravanganza of the year
How to reach:
Bhubaneswar is well connected via air / rail route from all major cities.
Distance between Bhubaneswar and Puri: 65 Kms
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