As you know, our “fascist”/Hindu religion is thousands of years old.
In some areas, the customs and practices got suppressed and diluted and changed due to the influence of our “secular” invaders from Turkey, Persia, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan etc.
But some areas got spared the “secularism” and thus rituals and cultural practices hundreds of years old still continue to operate in those areas.
One such area is Puri, in Orissa – the abode of Lord Jagannath.
His house, The Puri Jagannath Temple, is one of the 4 important pilgrim destinations – Char Dhams (Bardinath, Rameshwaram and Mathura the other three) – for “fascist”/Hindus.
[BTW, even if you are not a “fascist”/Hindu, you can go to Puri – it has a long beach (relatively clean), lots of cashew nuts, a fantastic sweet called Jibe Goja and the Konarak temple, an UNESCO World Heritage site. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konark_Sun_Temple ]
Apart from anything, they can be the poster family for anti racism campaigners what with black, white and yellow living side by side harmoniously for centuries.
These guys, eat, drink, bathe, change dresses and do all that normal everyday activities.
Moreover once every year, they leave their house, and like nice little gods, go visit their aunt. Their journey takes the shape of a massive gargantuan procession with chariots and millions of people pulling those chariots.
You have got to see it to believe it (preferable on tv, especially if you are claustrophobic).
Leave all that aside, today I learnt some news which is astonishing, astounding, mid boggling, dumbfounding and pretty much flabbergasting.
Once every 12-19 years, they conk out.
But, since as per “fascist”/Hindu traditions the soul is immortal, the gods get reborn – in a neem tree. This soul transfer even has a name – Brahmaparivartan.
Priests etc take wood from said tree once the Brahmaparivartan has taken place and then curve new idols from it. The whole process forms part of the Nabakalebar (new body) ceremony.
The ceremony can be performed only by the descendants of King Viswabasu (11-12th century). These guys are called “daitapatis”.
The Nabakalebar process begins with the Banjaga yatra.
A search party of daitapatis, priests and others travels from Puri to Kakatpur, about 50km away. Once there, they fan out in various directions to search for trees bearing the required sacred symbols, which differ for each of the four deities. A neem tree is chosen only if its trunk displays one of the holy symbols such as the chakra (wheel), shankha (conch) and gada (mace) apart from certain other features prescribed by the scriptures. They chop down the tress and perform numerous rituals and yagnas.
The cut wood is carried in wooden carts known as “sagadis” in processions that take days to reach Puri. Once there, the wood is kept in an inner chamber of the Jagannath shrine. Carpenters then curve the wood into the new idols.
Then there are more rituals and yagnas through which the souls are transferred into the idols.
The transfer process is interesting too.
First, the ‘daitapatis’ strip the idols and make them muy naked.
Then they peel away the colours and finally they extract the soul from the cavities of the old idols and keep it within newly carved wooden images of the deities.
Reminds you of the mummification process of the ancient Egyptians doesn’t it?
Immediately after the transfer of souls, the old idols are buried in the temple’s crematorium, Koili Baikuntha. The daitapatis go into mourning.
And all this happens in darkness and “secrecy” – in earlier centuries for fear of the “seculars” and nowadays for the sake of tradition.
The new idols are presented to the devotees at the temple a day before the Rath Yatra in a ceremony called Naba Jauban Darshan.
This year there has been some brouhaha about that ceremony and – as usual – the Indian Anti National Congress has jumped on the bandwagon of outrage and protests about this “fascist”/Hindu practice. http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150626/jsp/frontpage/story_27961.jsp#.VYzrtPmqqko
That has brought it to the focus of the media and thus, now the outside world knows about this fascinating and interesting practice.