JAGANNATHA PURI, ORISSA —
As all eyes are on the exact location of the sacred Neem trees, whose timber will be used to carve new idols of the Deities of Jagannath Temple in Puri for Nabakalebara, the shrine priests on Sunday fanned out in different directions to shortlist the trees. After reaching Kakatpur on April 2 of the 49-day Banajaga Yatra (search for Neem trees), the priests belonging to Daitapati community of the temple were split in six groups and visited Khurda, Puri, Cuttack and Jajpur districts on day one. One group also inspected some Neem trees at Balipatna and Balianta on Bhubaneswar's outskirts.
"We checked at different places and found some trees. It doesn't mean that all those trees will be used to carve the idol of Lord Jagannath. They may be fit for Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Sudarshan. We all are moving in the directions as prophesied by goddess Mangala," said Ramakrushna Dasmohapatra, president of Daitapati Nijog.
"We will continue our search for the next two days as well. We came across some Neem trees at different places. It doesn't mean that wherever we go and locate Neem trees, those will be fit for carving of idols," said Jagannath Swain Mohapatra, another servitor. "After the end of our search, we will discuss with our team leader and finalize the trees," he said.
Though the priests had embarked on the journey from Puri to Kakatpur barefoot on March 29, they travelled in vehicles in search of the trees on Sunday. Taking advantage of technology, they clicked photographs of the probable trees in their smart phones and sent them to the team leader for verification. "We have taken a host of photographs of the trees in which we found specific religious symbols," Dasmohapatra said.
Some priests said they faced inconvenience as many villagers and media persons chased them to the probable locations. "The search process is a secret ritual. But we were hounded by villagers and TV channels," said another priest.
The temple administration earlier urged the media not to publish or display any material relating to probable location of Neem timbers before the official announcement by the temple body.
"People in huge numbers might congregate at those villages, which will lead to serious law and order situation. It will be extremely difficult for temple administration to protect such trees," said temple's chief administrator Suresh Mohapatra. "Media persons are requested not to chase or follow the Daitapati Sevaks till the final announcement of trees by temple administration," Mohapatra said.