Sunday, 2 June 2019

The making of giant wooden chariots of Jagannath temple, Puri - Some fascinating facts


Puri Jagannath temple. Chariot wheels alamy.com
Puri Jagannath temple. Chariot wheels getting ready harekrsna.com
The Puri Jagannath Rathyatra falls normally in the month of July each year and the tradition has it the three big  chariots of the deities - Jagannath, Balarama and Goddess Subadhra  are to be made only of wood including the numerous wheels. Steel wheels are not used for the temple cars (chariots)in Odisha unlike Tamil Nadu or any other Indian states. At a time when we talk about global warming, emission of green gas,  slow disintegration of ice in the polar regions and shrinking of glaciers in the upper Himalayan regions, cutting hundreds of trees to produce to get tons of wood each year to make Gods' chariots may sound not palatable. The tradition of making only wooden chariot afresh every year has been around for centuries and the temple authorities and certain religious bodies do not want this age old tradition broken. The Odisha government has come up with a novel method to tackle this gripping problem to keep the environment clean and at the same time  keep the old tradition  of using only wooden chariots for the Gods intact. The chariot making ritual will normally start much earlier in May after the priests perform the ceremonial puja in front of the Jagannath shrine.  The work on the chariots begin on Akshay Tritiya, an  auspicious day  in April or May. This year the Rathyatra falls on the 4th of July.
wheels for the chariots, Puri Jagannath templgettyimages.com
Puri Jagannath temple chariots. Colossal wheels hindu-blog.com
The following are quite  interesting facts on wood requirements etc for the Puri Rathyatra: 

01. All the three chariots of the Jagannath temple have 42 giant wooden wheels in total. They will not be reused for the following year's temple festival. 

02. The chariots and  parts of wheels are  made at Ratha khala - the place where the chariots take the final shape. Mind you 4000  pieces of wood are required to make rathas. 

03. Temple authorities say every year  1000 trees of various species cut to make the rathas. The environmentalists wanted the temple authorities to reuse the  rathas. But, they faced stiff opposition from the temple administration.
construction of a chariot, puri jagannath temple. economydecoded.com
04. The Odisha govt. in 2000  introduced a scheme called Jagannath vana Prakalpa. The purpose was to rear trees to meet the wood requirements for the chariots, Till 2008 plantation was carried out over 2300 hectors of land  for rearing trees to be used for making wooden chariots. In 2015-16 plantation was done on 1000 hectors for Jagannath Rathyathra. It is a good way of replenishing the forest. 
Puri Jagannath temple chariots. Colossal wheels blog.sterlingholidays.com

05. Logs of wood from the following trees  are used: Dhaura, Pia sal, Asan, Phasi Bandhan and Kasi. They need to be approved by the hereditary carpenters attached to the temple who are experts in making chariots. Carpenters from outside the temple jurisdiction are not allowed to work on the rathas. 

06. In the erstwhile Gadajata region that has many ancient Hindu  temples, 32000 cu,ft of timber is required  to make chariots and the government provides them quality wood at a reasonable rate to keep the religious functions going at the Hindu temple. 

07. Between 2014 to 2016, a total of 38545 cb. feet of timber was supplied by the government for making the Lord's rathas. The cutting of wood is done on the Ramanavami day (birth of Sri Rama) in a saw mill -March or April. 
Puri Jagannath temple. religionworld.in
Above image: Puri town, Odisha has  an important Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Jagannath, a form of lord Maha Vishnu, located on the eastern coast of India. The temple, being  an important pilgrimage destination, attracts lots of Hindu devotees from various parts of India.  The present temple was rebuilt from the 10th century onwards, on the site of an earlier temple.  King Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva (12th century), first of the Eastern Ganga dynasty began the construction work. The great seer Ramanuja established the Embar Mutt here. It is  one of the four seats of  Shankaracharyas. The three deities of this temple are made of wood, not of stone. Lord Jagannatha himself was a tribal deity here. This famous temple has the largest kitchen in the 
world, daily preparing 100000 meals a day for the visiting devotees .............................................. 

08. Every year, the three chariots of Sri Jagannath temple require 13000 cb. feet of lumber - a whopping requirement.  The forest dept. supplies the wood  and delivers it  in the area outside the Jagannath Temple office on Vasant Panchami (Saraswati Puja), the birthday of Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge. Delivery of wood has to be done only on that day. 

09. About 200 carpenters, tailors, painters, blacksmiths, etc are engaged in a cordinating way  to make the rathas and they should finish the job within the prescribed deadline of 58 days.
Chariot work underway, Puri familyholiday.net
chariots of Jagannath temple, Puri theholidayindia.com
10. The wheels are fixed  to the principal axles on the last day of ''Chandan Yatra'' (42nd day sandalwood festival).
three chariots of Jagannath temple, Puri swarajyamag.com

10. Carpenters do not follow the  written instruction  and the knowledge is passed on to them from generations to generations

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhubaneswar/13000-cubic-feet-timber-a-year-for-chariot-making-in-Puri-Jagannath-shrine/articleshow/52207549.cms
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jagannath_Temple,_Puri