The Making of the Chariots – The Rath Yatra, Puri, Odisha

It is that time of the year again when Lord Jagannath along with his elder brother Balbhadra and younger sister Subhadra go on their yearly vacation. They travel on humongous chariots from the Puri temple to their aunt’s place in the Gundicha Temple. Over the centuries, the Puri Rath Yatra has been drawing devotees because of its sheer size and scale.

The most remarkable feature of the Puri Rath Yatra festival is the three towering temple-shaped chariots that are used for carrying the deities from the Jagannath Temple. The Puri Rath Yatra chariots that are built every year are a labor of love. This oldest chariot festival is actually a ruse for the God to come out of his abode to meet his disciples irrespective of their caste, creed, and religion. However, there are various views associated with the Puri Rath Yatra, but the one which stands out is of Bhakta Salabega. Although a Muslim by birth, he was a devout devotee of Lord Jagannath. It is said that once he was late for the Puri Rath Yatra and was anxious that he might miss out on the big event. He fervently prayed to Jagannath to stay till he reached the site. It is said that on that particular day nobody could budge the chariot on which Lord Jagannath was sitting, until Salabega, a subedar in Jehangir’s army reached the spot. It is rumored that even today the Lord waits for exactly the same amount of time at the same spot before embarking on his journey.

The People Behind the Puri Rath Yatra

200 hundred laborers comprising of carpenters, helpers, blacksmiths, tailors, and painters work tirelessly to build the chariots and make the Puri Rath Yatra a success. These laborers are not selected on the basis of their skill but on the family that belongs to. The right to construct the chariots for the Puri Rath Yatra belongs to only one family of carpenter and is passed from one generation to the other. Moreover, the making of the Puri Rath Yatra chariots have to be completed within a period of 58 days and the process is handed down from one generation to the other.

The making of the Chariots for the Puri Rath Yatra

Every year the Odisha State Government on the occasion of Saraswati Puja (Basant Panchami) supplies 4000 pieces of wood at the temple office for the Puri Rath Yatra. In order to continue on with the supply of wood, the government of Odisha has started a plantation program. The cutting of the woods to the required size begins on Ram Navami Day. The construction of the chariot for the Puri Rath Yatra takes place in front of the royal palace near the Jagannath Temple and begins on Akshaya Tritiya day. The work on all the three chariots for Puri Rath Yatra begins and ends simultaneously. The carpenters are supposed to make a total of 42 wheels for all the three chariots. After completions, the Puri Rath Yatra chariots are brought to the Lions Gate entrance of the main temple in Puri.

After the Puri Rath Yatra is over the chariot is dismantled and the wood is used in the kitchen of the Puri Jagannath Temple. The chariots used in the Puri Rath Yatra have a special significance. All the three chariots are temple shaped which symbolizes the body and the deity that resides in the chariot is its soul.The chariot in which Lord Jagannath travels is known as Nandighosa, Lord Balbadhra’s chariot is called Taladhwaja and Devi Subhadra’s chariot is Debadalana.

Branolia Chemical Works salutes the workers without whose hard work the Puri Rath Yatra wouldn’t have been possible.

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