Mahima Gosain propagated Mahima Dharma in Odisha and the neighbouring states for many years. He then took Samadhi at the Joranda of Dhenkanal district in Odisha in 1876. The place where Mahima Swami disappeared and merged Himself in the Mahanityapura is called Mahima Gadi. It is the heart of the Mahima movement. The devotees of Mahima Dharma are divided mainly into two orders based on their wearing – Koupindhari (loincloth users) and balkaladhari (bark wear user). Out of this, the balkaldhari is the devotees who wear bark of tree.
The saints of Mahima Dharma wear bark of only Kumbhi tree. This bark is collected in a ritualistic manner. Besides, there is a set of rules regarding wearing of the bark. Here is a report.
In the ancient age, sages used to wear bark of trees. Not only sages, but before cloth came into existence humans were wearing bark of trees. The practice of wearing bark is tough, but even in the present day a certain sect of Mahima Dharma followers wear bark of Kumbhi tree.
The first stage saints in this cult, called Bairagis use to wear the loincloths. After attaining a certain stage the Bairagis are upgraded when they are eligible to wear bark. They are awarded the bark in a ceremony. This ceremony is observed on the 14th day (Chaturdashi) in the Hindu month of Magha.
There is a set of prescriptions about how to collect the bark. Kumbhi trees grow in forests as well as in gardens. The seeds of this tree can be harvested in different soils. Woods of this tree is also used as firewood.
As per the prescription of the Mahima Dharma the bark of Kumbhi tree is taken out either in the Hindu month of Aswina or Kartika. In these months the bark remains in a proper state from which good attire like bark can be taken out.
The devotees who go to collect the bark need to obey certain rules prescribed in the Mahima Dharma. On the day, when they go for the collection, they awake early in the morning; finish daily chores including bathing and then meditate and then set out. They go without wearing any footwear. They are also needed to observe fast on this occasion. Even they do not swallow spit. Also, they would not talk to anyone.
Kumbhi trees are available in small and big size. A branch Kumbhi tree of 8 to 10 inch diameter is ideal for this purpose. A wood log of a little more than 3 hand long portion is cut.
Then the wood log is shifted on shoulders or handheld. It is then fixed to the ground. Then, the bark is gently beaten with woods by multiple people. The beating goes on from the upper side. After a while the whole bark comes down and gets detached from the wood log. It is now available in one piece without any tear.
Later, the bark is cut into long pieces and then dried up in sunlight. Then out of the multiple layers of the bark each layers are separated that is used as apparel. Then, it is spread on the ground and pressed so that it becomes soft. Finally, the long piece is cut into multiple pieces of wearable size.
Bark of every Kumbhi tree is not suitable to wear. Hence, one needs experience to choose the perfect tree from which good barks can be taken out. Normally, from one piece of such bark, three to four numbers of wearable bark cloth prepared.
As per the devotees of Mahima Dharma, an ideal pair of bark wear can be used for 3 to 4 months without any hassle. These wears do not have any side effect. Ideally one person uses two bark wears to cover his body. The devotees say that by wearing the bark one gets feeling of dedication and divinity within them.
The bark wear for Mahima cult is made only from Kumbhi tree. One needs about 10 to 15 such wears in a year. However, it is tough to use such bark because they need to manage with the two bark wears in all the seasons across the year. That means they need to wear the pair of bark wears in cold days, during rainy days and in hot summer days as well.
The bark dress is a symbol of sacrifice and dedication. This is for the upgraded stage of the cult. It is difficult to live by wearing bark of tree, but it is astonishing to see that even in this age, devotees of Mahima Dharma use to wear such dresses.