As a man discarding worn out clothes takes other new ones,so also the embodied soul, casting off worn out bodies enters into others which are new.In the light of this truth of the Bhagavat Geeta, Navakalevar can be interpreted as a ceremony for entering into new bodies, when Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan cast off their old bodies and take new ones. It is called Navakalevar. The year which has two months of Ashadha is regarded auspicious for Navakalevar ceremony. It usually occurs in 8, 11 or 19 years. The new bodies of the deities are made out of the newly cut Neem trees.
After elaborate preliminary preparations, the right trees are found, Deities carved, transformation made and old Deities buried in the ground. Last rites were done in 1996. Though as much as half million people attend the festival, most of the procedures are conducted in secret and no other than few appointed priests and servants can be present.
First of all the special trees with the symbolic marks of chakra, con-shell, mace and lotus have to be found. The search party consists of exact numbers of man belonging to specific families and casts. After several stops they will reach village Kakatpur 80 km from Puri. The oldest member of Dayitapati family has to sleep in the temple of Goddess Vimala or Mangala, meaning “Auspicious One”. He must have a dream during this stay in which goddess tells him the exact location where the trees can be found. The tree for each of the four Deities will be in a different place (the fourth Deity is Sudarsan). When the search party locates the places, they may find many trees, but the sacred symbols will be found on only one of them.
The Siva’s temple and pond has to be nearby. Very rare types of trees must be growing beside: The Varuna Tree, which can protect you from snakes. It is said that this tree has the power to destroy all anger and pride. People today often carry a piece of Varuna bark with them if they must meet a bothersome person. The Sahada Tree, which gives the power to forget oneself. The Vilua Tree, which has the power to cure any disease, even heart disease, cancer and leprosy.
The cure is obtained by chewing its leaves. All three trees are very rare, whereas the Neem tree is very common. When the trees are found, they must construct a small hut nearby in which they will now reside. A great fire sacrifice is performed there to invite all demigods to give their blessings and cutting of the tree can start. First only the golden axe can touch the tree, then silver and after that iron axe can finish the work. 108 names of the Lord are chanted continuously. Neem wood will not decay for more than thirty years and it is one of the longest-lasting types of wood in India. Since “Neem” is called “daru” Jagannatha Deity is also called “daru-brahman”.
Only members of the Dayitapati family have the right of carrying the huge log back to Puri and the descendant of the original carver can carve the Deity. Only few precisely designated servants can participate in the rites of transformation. Old Deities are placed in front of the new ones and three oldest members of Dayitapati family transfer “Daru-brahman” to the new Deities.
Not even the head priest can be there during this time. Nava-kalevara-yatra is actually this transformation ceremony during which all present have very intense experiences as they blindfolded transfer “life force” to the new Deities. Old Deities are buried in a place known as Koili Vaikuntha. Koili means “burial ground” and Vaikuntha means “Heaven”.