Prana Prathistha: Consecration of Divine Energy in Hindu Deities – PART III
The previously published part 1of this series (published in December and January issues of KhaasBaat) discussed the significance and the process of new Sanatan Mandir’s upcoming Prana Prathistha Mahotsav set April 9-13, 2019 during Navaratri. The uniqueness of Sanatan Mandir in the Tampa Bay area is that it promotes and fosters Hinduism otherwise referred to as Sanatan (meaning Eternal) Dharma (the path or nature of the living being which upholds the universe) that forms the basis of universal truth that can be applied to anyone, at anytime and anywhere in the universe. It is said that Hinduism or Vedic culture may have as many as 330 million gods, though the universe is created and governed by one Supreme Being (God).
According to Vedas, the Supreme Being (God) manifests himself partly or fully as Avatars on earth to exemplify earthly living (codes of conduct) to human beings. Also, the Supreme Being has many demigods, who have several demigods as agents, who either represent Him or assist Him in managing His creation. The demigods control various powers of nature and manifest in the physical, subtle or psychic levels of existence both within human beings or beyond.
Keeping with the Sanatan Dharma, several Gods including Shiva-Parvati, Ram Parivar, Radha-Krishna, Jagannath Chaturdha Murtis and Laxmi-Narayan, Shree Ganesh, Modheswari Mata, Durga Mata, Guru Dattatreya, JalaramBapa, SaiBaba and the Navagrahas will undergo Prana Prathistha during the Mahotsav. In this issue, we will describe one of the Gods, Lord Jagannath and family, who will be installed for the first time in the new Sanatan Mandir and in Florida. Lord Jagannath (in Sanskrit: “Lord of the Universe”), considered a Supreme God, as a quintessence of Param Brahma (Supreme Lord) has been described as the Lord Vishnu himself being worshipped in His ‘Daru (meaning wooden) form as described in Vedas and in Skandapuran.
Others consider Lord Jagannath as an avatar of Lord Vishnu (Kalki Avtar) and a reincarnation of Lord Krishna. The holy abode of Lord Jagannath has been in the temple located on the eastern coast of India, at Puri, Odisha. The current temple was built during the 11th century and the history of temple abode goes back to time immemorial, some records stating as far back as 6,000 BCE. Sri Jagannath in Puri is the first of four major dhaam (place of pilgrimage) is uniquely known to be only Lord with human behavior in temples in as far that Lords do everything from brushing of teeth to falling sick. Puri Temple has the world’s biggest pure rasoi (kitchen) and has the world’s annual Ratha Yatra (Car festival).
Similar to Puri temple, Sanatan Mandir is also uniquely close to the Hillsborough River and the Bay (seashore), and the temple plans to celebrate annual Ratha Yatra in collaboration with the Tampa Bay Ratha Yatra Association. Based on the traditions and rituals followed in the Puri temple and in 3,000 Jagannath temples worldwide, worship of Lord Jagannath with his elder brother Balabhadra and younger sister Subhadra and the mighty Sudarshan Chakra, together known as ‘Chaturdha’ Murti.
In all temples, the installation of the Chaturdha Murti is done according to the Puri Panthas (scriptures), where the Lord is believed to perform the ‘lilas’ (enactments) of being “born”. As described in the Prana Prathistha previously (in part 1) Sri Jagannath Murti Stappana will include chanting of the moola mantra (mantras evoking the living God) and havans (making offerings into a consecrated fire) which are performed over a span of several days to invoke the power of the deities in the images. Every detail of the birth ceremony is performed for Lord Jagannatha, including the ritual of the umbilical cord and the burying of the embryonic sac. Another highlight of the ceremony is the "eye-opening" rite by which a qualified priest "enlivens" the murtis for worship. Following their birth, the deities are bathed with sacred substances from the cow (ghee, yogurt, milk, etc.) and the holy water from the Kalashas (urns). Upon completion of the religious ceremony, the doors of the temple are opened for the devotees to finally see their revered Lord. The propitious sounds of conch-shells, drums and bells as well as the chanting of the devotees, reverberate the auspiciousness of the surroundings.
One unique norm performed for the Chaturdha deities that runs parallel to Prana-Prathistha is called “Naba-kalebara.” It portrays the cycle of birth, demise and re-birth of Lord Jagannath of Puri. The word comprises of two parts; “Naba” meaning “New” and “Kalebara” meaning “Body.” The idols of Lord Jagannatha, Balabhadra and Subhadra are made of special neem wood called “Daru.” Naba-kalebara thus becomes necessary as the neem wood from which the deities are made of, decays over time. It is usually performed after an interval of 8, 12 or 19 years. The process begins with a few chosen servitors of the Lord going out in search of the neem trees for the murtis. The neem logs are ferried to the temple in an elaborate procession. After the murtis are sculpted inside the temple, the transfer of the Brahmapadartha (Soul) from the old Deities to the new ones is done in a concealed manner, prescribed and inherited from generations, by the servitors of Lord Jagannath. The mortal body gets cremated in the temple burial. But ‘Atma’ or soul remains intact, as it is eternal and hence indestructible.
This unique ‘Naba-kalebara’ event exemplifies reincarnation as depicted in the Bhagavat Gita. Thus, passing of soul from one body to another is uniquely manifested by the Chaturdha Murti, who shed off their worn-out bodies to take up the new ones. The Chaturdha Murti, including Balabhadra, Subhadra, Jagannath and Sudrashan, is an embodiment for universal brotherhood, love, tolerance and equality. With his arms stretching out to openly receive the devotees and his large eyes constantly looking after the welfare of the devotees – He is truly revered as “Bada” or “Maha” “Thakura” (big or great Lord).
“Lord Jagannath.” http://www.parashakthitemple.org/lord-jagannath> 11/26/2018.
“Installation of Sri Jagannatha at Bhaktivedanta Ashram.” < https://www.bvashram.org/installation-of-sri-jagannatha-at-bhaktivedanta-ashram/> 11/26/2018.
“Pran Prathista of Jagannath Murti.” < https://www.hsnconline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/HSNC%20Newsletter%20Jan%202016.pdf > 11/26/2018
Mishra, Dr. Bhaskar; Dash, Susanta Kumar. “Nabakalebara Rituals of Darubrahma Shree Jagannath.” 2015. Orissa Review.
Joshi, Dina Krishna. “Lord Jagannath-The Deity.” 2007. Orissa Review.