Question: Nabakalebara – What, When & Why?
Answer: Nabakalebara (Naba means New and Kalebara means Body, literally meaning New Body) is an ancient ritual associated with Lord Jagannath.
During this ritual, the idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Sudarshan are replaced by a new set of idols.
This ritual is performed when a year has two Asadha months (Adhika maas ofAsadha) according to Hindu calendar.
This usually occurs every 12 to 18 years.
The deities are made of Daru Brahma (Neem Tree).
This ritual of Nabakalebara is perhaps based on the philosophy of this verse from the Bhagwad Gita –
..vasa?si jir?ani yatha vihaya
navani g?h?ati naro ‘para?i
tatha sarira?i vihaya jir?any
anyani sa?yati navani dehi..
meaning, As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones. [Second verse of the second Chapter of Srimad Bhagwat Gita]
The last ceremony took place in 1996 and the next one is in 2015. More than 50 Lakh devotees are expected to attend the ceremony.