A week after priests of the 12th century Jagannath temple in Puri identified a neem tree from which wood for the new idol of Lord Jagannath would be carved out, Odisha’s chief wildlife warden has asked the Jagatsinghpur district collector and Shree Jagannath Temple Trust to help the wildlife department rescue owlets living on the tree.
The directive came after a complaint from wildlife activist Biswajit Mohanty who said the owlets belonged to a protected species. The activist had complained that the neem tree had a nest of spotted owlet and fledgling chicks that cannot fly yet. “Felling the tree without rescuing them would result in sure deaths. Spotted owls are protected species under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Nandan Kanan zoo authorities or captive bird breeders who have knowledge about rearing of wild chicks could be approached for assistance,” the activist wrote.
Last week, the priests had selected the Neem tree at Jagatsinghpur’s Kharipadia area and found the necessary “symbols”, making it the tree from which logs for the new idols would be taken. These included symbols of shankha (conch), chakra (wheel), padma (lotus), gada (mace) and trishul (trident).
The new idols will be built as part of the Nabakalebara festival, which is believed to mark the reincarnation of the three deities in the temple. The last Nabakalebara took place in 1996.