Role of Sevayats

The persons entrusted in the Seva-Puja (ritual services) of the deities in Jagannath Temple are known as Sevayats or Sevakas (servitors). These Servitors or the ‘Sevayats’ play a vital part in the Nabakalebara. Beginning of the Nabakalebara marks with a team of more than 100 servitors ascending on a journey, which is also known as ‘Banajaga Jatra’ or the search of the sacred woods for the making of the new idols. This team is composed of servitors like Daitas, Patimahapatra, Dadhakaran, Deulakarana, Padiakaran, Maharana, Lenka, Rajguru, some Brahmin servitors along with the other servitors and workers of the Temple Administration.

The journey (Banajaga Jatra) starts only after the chief servitor Gajapati Maharaj of Puri, officially commences the jatra by a ritual called the Gua Teka, which directs the Daitapati servitors of Lord Jagannath to set out on foot to identify and locate the sacred woods. The Daru Brahma Investigators - Pati Mohapatra, Biswabasu, Dalapati, Badagrahi Daitapatis, Brahman Acharyas, Badagrahi Biswakarma Maharana, Tadaukarana and Deulakarana etc, proceed to Jagannath Ballav Math on the Grand road accompanied with the music of conches, trumpets, drums and gongs etc. enriched procession. All of them remain there for one and half-a-day for their initial preparation. Next day early morning, all the Banajaga Jatri’s in a procession accompanied with different types of musical instruments proceed to the temple of Maa Mangala at Kakatpur, arrange a special Majana (Ceremonial bath) for her, dress and decorate her with the new sarees and beautiful flowers provided by Jagannath temple administration and consign Gajamanda and Chadheineda. The locations of sacred woods begins with 'Swapnadesha' or dreams at the Maa Mangala Temple which form the basis for locating the individuals Daru Brahma’s. 
  
After getting a divine dream of the location of the Daru Brahma’s, the Daitapatis move from place to place in small groups in search of the individual Darubrikhya. Biswakarma inspects the Darubrikhya, check, measures it and on receipt of his clearance, the process of identification of specific Daru Brahma is considered as final. The Daru investigators proceed to the Neem tree identified for Sudarshan first and the processing of Daru Brahma of Balabhadra, Shubhadra and Jagannath are undertaken in seriatim subsequently in similar manner.
 
After the individual Daru Brahma’s (sacred woods) are identified and selected, several rituals are performed , the area around the selected tree is cleared, the entire area is made purified by sprinkling of scented water and utterances of vedic mantra, this is called normal Bhumisuddhi. The Sudarshan chakra brought by the Lenka sevayat from Shree Mandir is put up near the root of the tree after clearance of the area and proper spotting of Daubrikhya. The ritual bath of the tree by chanting of Purushsukta hymns is to be completed by sprinkling of sacrificial water. Sandal paste and vermilion are applied and flowers are offered to the tree. Badagrahi Daitapati puts up the Agnyamala and then the majana of the tree is to be taken up after wrapping the tree with white clothes. The next item is the parikrama of the Darubrikhya, this is performed by Patimohaptra, Daitapatis and lenka, thrice. There are several other rituals that are conducted before finally the process of felling of the Daru-Brukhya ( sacred woods) starts. The Acharya holds the golden axe, utters the a defined Mantra (each different for, offering flowers, sandal-paste, ghee and honey on the golden axe and handovers it to Bidyapati or Pati mahapatra. Bidyapati with the recitation of Mantra-raj mantra rounds the Daru brukhya from left to right direction three times, and then strikes the same by the golden axe thrice. Then the Acharya takes the silver axe, recites Sudarshan Mantra and gives it to Biswabasu (Daitapati). Biswabasu in the above-stated procedure rounds the Darubrukhya and strikes the same thrice. At last the Acharya holds the iron axe, utters Sudarshan Mantra and hand overs it to Biswakarma carpenter. The Biswakarma recites Hari-Hari-Nam and starts the final cutting of the Darubrukhya. After the cutting of the Darubrikhya, the transportation of Daru’s are done on ‘Shagadis’ or carts to the Shree Mandir after being consecrated by the Shrotriya Brahmins.
 
During the entire period, the sevayats follow strict discipline in their daily activities. For most part of the time after a ritual called Ankuraropana, they partake food only once a day (Habisya Anna) and sleep on temporary shelters called Sabarpallis, made of leaves and bamboo.