BHUBANESWAR: Anything and everything related to Lord Jagannath finds a special place in the lives of Odias. And mountains are indeed moved by the deep-rooted faith of the population in the Trinity’s divinity.
The banks of river Kuakhai at Gadakuntunia village in Balakati block turned into a religious hotspot on Monday with thousands of devotees from far-off places making a beeline to have a glimpse of Lord Sudarshan’s Daru (holy Neem tree).
A childless couple from Salepur, Binod Rath and his wife Sushma, made it to Balakati on their two-wheeler after hearing about identification of the Daru of Lord Sudarshan.
“We wanted to touch the Daru, but barricades prevented us from doing so. But, we received holy Tulsi (basil) twigs after performing puja. We expect that the Lord will fulfill our wish,” Binod said.
Similarly, 65-year-old Ranganath Pradhan travelled all the way from Boudh to offer prayers at the holy site. An ardent devotee of Lord Jagannath, Pradhan had made up his mind to arrive at the spot where the first Daru would be spotted. He will move to Puri in next few days after rituals for felling the holy tree are completed.
Braving the scorching sun, devotees chanted prayers in unison turning the atmosphere of the nondescript village intensely spiritual. They lighted lamps, offered coconuts and made their best efforts to make close contact with the holy tree.
The site, where the holy tree has been located, spreads over 10 acres and has turned into a virtual mela ground with all kinds of eateries and ice cream stalls coming up to cater to the needs of devotees.
A local trader Dilip Kumar Martha said the Neem tree was being worshipped in the form of ‘Daru Mandir’ since January, 2000.
“A couple of months after super-cyclone hit Odisha in October, 1999, a carpenter Shyam Sundar Behera placed an image of the Trinity before the tree and urged the locals to worship it as a shrine,” Martha added.
“A number of saints, who visited our village, used to say that a tree on the banks of river Kuakhai will someday make it to Puri Jagannath temple and worshipped as an idol,” Sridhar Padhi, the local priest said.
Sources said villagers of Gadakuntunia smelt burning of ‘jhuna’ (resin of Sal) as they passed by the holy tree during evening time. The tree is located adjacent to the old Jagannath Sadak which was once used by pilgrims from north and eastern India to travel to Puri. Interestingly, the tree is perfectly placed at the intersection of two cremation grounds and just a few hundred metres from ‘Chousathi Jogini’ temple.
Taking note of the ever increasing crowd, a first-aid centre has been set up in the vicinity. Besides, the district administration has constructed a temporary road which leads to the site.
The ‘Daru’ was identified by a group of Banajagis on Saturday night. Since then, iron barricades have been erected around the holy tree to ensure that it is not damaged and devotees are able to have darshan from a safe distance.
Shri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) officials along with local officials have set up tents for yajna and other rituals which will commence from Thursday.