Nabkalebar ritual at Puri

Ideal characteristics of wood needed for the idols at Jaggan-Nath-Puri 


Lord Jagan-Nath and his siblings are made from wood. Daily worship entails a lot of wear and tear on the wooden idols. To make sure the Lord looks perfect, the paintwork is refreshed on a regular basis. Even than, eventually the idols wear down. They are replaced approximately every 12 years.

Excessive fun and frolic in the water during summer's Sanan-Yatra leads to the deities "catching a cold".  This "illness" confines the divine siblings of Puri to quarantine in the inner sanctum for 15 days.  Every 12 years, the wooden idols of Shri Jaggan-Nathji, Balaramji and Subhadraji are "renewed" in the Nabkalebar ritual.  During this 15 day interval, when no one but the "daitya" clan of temple servants may serve the Lord, new idols are carved and “life-essence” / 'Brama Padarath' transferred from the old to the new icon of JagganNath.  Some believe the Brahma Padarth are bones of Shri Krushna.  Some believe it is a blue gem - the original Nila-Madhava.  Whatever it is, only the Daityapati gets to see and touch this sacred relic during the transfer ceremony. 

Revived and refreshed with new bodies, the siblings go to the sea-side-temple of their maternal aunt - Gundicha-ghar to rest and recuperate.  The whole town celebrates the summer holiday as the 'Ratha Yatra' of Lord Jaggan-Nath !!!


Here is some information about the Nabkalebar ritual that took place in 1996 to replace the idols at Jaggan-Nath-Puri.

The Daru ie the wood for the idols comes from the Neem tree and can come from any part of Orissa. The specifications for the woods are very stringent.

Krishna idol is to be made from a black Daru, with four branches sprouting from the main tree.
idols is made from a white tree with seven branches.
idol from a yellow daru trunk with five branches.

Apart from this, there are so many other conditions to be fulfilled viz:

1.The main tree must have three other trees in vicinity.
2.These trees are Bel, Varun and Sehad, having different qualities.
3.The tree has to be surrounded by mountains on three sides.
4.A colony of ants, a Shiv temple, a cremation ground, a point joining three roads(Tiraha), a sarovar (Pond) and a running river should also exist close to the divine tree.
5.The tree must be free from any diseases or damage caused by lightening.
6.The tree must not be hosting a guest plant or bird nest.
7.There should be a snake living in a hole close by to protect the plant.

And most importantly, the four signs of lord Vishnu-Shankha-Chakra-Gada-Padma should be clearly discernible on the bark of the tree.

 Mohapatra (Maha-Brahmin) and a team of 16 priests embark on the mission to find the trunks with all these specifications. The search party is guided by the dream had by the head-priest of the Jagannath Temple.

After a tree is selected for cutting, the chief ‘Mohapatra’  touches the tree with a small axe, which is made of gold. Then his deputy touches the tree with a small silver axe. Then the head of the ‘Maharan’ family touches the tree with an axe made of iron after which the tree is cut with an ordinary axe. During the cutting, 108 different names of Lord Narsinghdev are chanted.

After the cutting ceremony, the wood is loaded on a special four-wheel cart, which is hand-drawn all the way to Puri by the head priest and devotees.
In 1996, when such a tree was cut last, the special vehicle was hand-drawn for more than 80 km.

More information on -

This website has wonderful details about the architecture of the temple at Puri  Details on Jagganatha and its main icons,_Puri  Lots of datails on Puri temple  Chronicles of Jagganath temple


(edited from other sites)
[email protected]


 Return to Index

 Return to Bhagwat's main page

 Return to ShriNathji's Haveli