Sunday, 31 May 2015

Nabakalebara and the Owls

Logo of Nabakalebara, 2015

The idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra in the Jagannath Temple are made of neem wood. These idols at the original temple at Puri in Odisha are changed once in 8, 11, 19 or 27 years, that is, in the year which has two Ashadh months as per the Hindu almanac. During the last 100 years, nabakalebara has been performed in 1912, 1931, 1950, 1969, 1977 and 1996. 

During nabakalebara, new idols of the deities are carved from the sacred wood in Koili Baikuntha. The Bramha in the old idols are transferred to the new idols  in a secret ritual in the dark, at midnight, by 3 selected priests whose eyes are blind-folded and palms are covered with cloth. All the doors to the temple are closed and all lights in the entire temple-premises are switched off at that time. Nobody has ever seen or touched the Bramha. The old idols, after transfer of Bramha, are buried in Koili Baikuntha, a spot inside the temple-complex.) Nabakalebar is due this year and will be performed on June 15, 2015.The process of change of idols is called ghata parivartan.

After an elaborate ritual, the trees the wood of which is to be used for carving the new idols are identified.

The trees selected must have specified divine characteristics.

One of such characteristics is that there should not be any bird-nest on it. However a tree on which an owl has set up its nest is an exception; indeed, this is considered as auspicious as owl is the bahan (vehicle) of Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Jagannath.

This year, the tree identified as Daru (sacred wood) from which the new idol of Lord Jagannath will be carved, had an owl-nest. The nest had two adult owls and three hatchlings. Since owls are among the protected species in India, every care was taken not to harm the owls and their offspring.

The Government instructed the concerned District Collector for making arrangement for safe removal of the owls. The Collector requisitioned the services of experts from the Forest Department for transferring the owl-family to a safe place. The experts reached near the identified auspicious tree. However, the sevaks who had gone to bring the daru (auspicious wood of the identified neem tree) did not allow them to climb the holy tree for removing the owls as no one is allowed to touch the holy tree with his or her feet. So the experts had to go back without accomplishing their mission.

The holy rituals were started for worshipfully felling the tree. Thousands of people thronged the area to have a darshan of the maha daru. As a part of the rituals, during the puja, drums were beaten, cymbals were played and homa (holy fire) was lit.  In spite of the cacophony, the owls never left the tree.

Experts from the Forest Department were called back. They keenly watched the whole process, for ensuring that no harm was caused to the owl-family. The tree was finally felled and just when it was touching the ground, the two adult birds flew away. The three hatchlings, unable to fly, had no option but to cling to the nest.

The bird-experts then carefully transferred the young owls to a cage and took them to zoological garden Nandan Kanan near Bhubaneswar. Bird-doctors examined the health of hatchlings.

The young owls have been kept in a protected area and are under close observation and intensive care.

I hope that they will survive and grow to their full potential. After they grow up, they are bound to be special guests at the unique park.

Meanwhile, let us wait till 2034 for the next nabakalebar!

N B:

The logo of nabakalebara this year depicts the daru (holy wood) from which the idols are made. The circle and the dark dot on its left side represent the chakaa akhi (round eyes of Lord Jagannath. On its top is the upper half of neela chakra (blue flag-staff) at the top of the the Lord's temple. 


Commemorative Postage Stamp to be Released to Mark Nabakalebara, 2015

Commemorative Coins  

Sand Art on Puri Beach, on Nabakalebara by the Internationally Renowned Sand Artist Sudarshan Pattanaik of Odisha

Sand Art Animation Film on Nabakalebara by Sudarshan Pattanaik

POST SCRIPT 26.06.2015

The age of the three hatchlings was about two to two and a half months when they were brought to Nandan Kanan Zoological Garden. They were treated as very special guests there and every care was taken there for them to grow up. On the 25th June, when they had become able to fly, they were taken to the place from where they had been brought and were released there. As per Wild Life Act, rescued animals/birds, after their healing, are to be released at the same place from where they are brought.

The young owls, when released, immediately displayed their newly-acquired flying prowess and flew away blithely into the blue sky, to the delight of their former caretakers.   
Here is a video explaining the Nabakalebar ceremony.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Bi-colour Flowers

As far as i know, almost all flowers have one colour each. In my garden, i have one Rangani (Ixora Coccinea) plant which contains two colours, red and yellow. Common rangani flowers are of scarlet colour. I have one variety of rangani on which the dominant colour is yellow and on it there are small dots of red. I have a fourth variety of rangani which is partly yellow and partly red.

Here are the four varieties:

The surprising fact is that these flowers with different colours blossom on the same plants.

I have six varieties of Mandar (Jaba Kusuma – China rose, coral tree, Hibiscu Rosa Sinensis) flower – the common red one, a pink one, another white and yet another pinkish yellow. I have observed that the mandar plant which almost always bears white flowers sometimes surprises me with pink flowers! The fifth variety is Lanka Mandar; it is called ‘lanka’ because it looks like a ripe red chilli. And the sixth one is 'pentha' (bunch) mandar. Here they are:

There is yet another variety, the seventh one - that bears common red flowers but its leaves have patches of white. Here is a sample:

Yesterday, there was a big surprise for me in the garden. On one mandar plant which always bears pinkish yellow flowers, had blossomed one bi-colour flower – half pinkish yellow and the other half bright red!!!

Here it is:

I do not know whether the pinkish yellow mandar is of a hybrid variety and whether the subdued red strain had suddenly made its presence felt!

And then why does the mandar plant which bears white flowers very occasionally brings out a pink-coloured flower? 

POST-SCRIPT: 09.04.2015

There was a second surprise today. The plant which normally bears pinkish yellow flowers and which had borne a bi-colour flower, had a fully red flower today. Here it is:

How difficult it is to fathom nature's creativity!!