The monsoon this year brought both death of several Gods and also their rebirth. On the east coast of India, the entire event played out in public knowledge, with unanimity of entire population – to continue an age-old tradition of encapsulating the mundane cycle of human life, and to reinforce an expansive Hindu belief of unity and infinity.
It’s not the first time. It happens every time when a month of reconciliation is made as per Hindu calendar – in the supplemental month of Ashadha. This falls after every twelve to nineteen years. As per the tradition, the idols of Lord Jagannath and of other three deities (Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan) in the temple of Puri, are replaced with the new ones.
The process is an elaborate one. The idols are carved from Neem (Indian Lilac) wood, each from a separate tree. These trees bearing specific characteristics are fetched from across the neighbouring region. The trees carry signature of divine symbols apart from being located near graveyards, Shiv or Shakti temples, and waterbodies. The tradition also demands existence of termite mounds nearby with cobras living apart from special identifications separately for each deity.
Like previous occasions, last being in 1996, the process started this year on March 28, and was completed on June 16. The temple administration, the state government, servitors and people across the state got involved in an intricate game of devotion spanned over several weeks. Locating trees, cutting these, doing invocations, taking the trunks to Puri as Daru Brahma after ritualistic acceptance for carving idols involved mammoth exercise on the part of everybody involved.
The whole undertaking involved activities demonstrating inevitable social engagement in the celebration of human life and still ascertaining the unalterable destiny of birth and death. The secrecy of certain activities exemplified the very ignorance of human about him or her, the nature of our existence, and our transformation before birth and after death. The soma of god came into being and facilitated god’s engagement in the worldly affairs year after year when the time came to migrate from a senile frame to a pristine one. The experience was universal and reflected the oneness of all existence. The gods still remained, yet changed their material bodies and adopted new ones.