Preparations begin for Orissa’s annual chariot festival

April 28th, 2009 - 2:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, April 28 (IANS) Preparations for the annual ‘Ratha Yatra’ or the chariot festival of the famed Jagannath temple in Orissa’s Puri town is underway, with carpenters and priests performing several rituals for the religious event beginning June 24.
The priests performed rituals to purify the wooden logs used to construct the chariots for deities, said Laxmidhar Puja Panda, spokesperson of the temple administration.

“The construction of the chariots will go on in full swing,” Panda told IANS. He added that nearly 100 carpenters would be involved to construct the chariots.

Every year, the three deities - Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra - are taken out of the 12th century Jagannath temple in Puri, over 50 km from here, in chariots to another shrine called Gundicha, in the same town.

Thousands of devotees pull these chariots with the help of four ropes tied to each chariot. The chariot of Lord Jagannath is known as ‘Nandighosh’, that of Balabhadra ‘Taladhwaja’ and Subhadra’s is called ‘Padmadhwaja’.

Nandighosh is 45 feet high and has 16 wheels. It has a red and yellow fabric on its roof and a wheel is placed on top of it. Taladhwaja is 44 feet high, has 14 wheels and its roof is red and green adorned with a fruit on top. The 43-foot-tall Padmadhvaja has 12 wheels and its roof is red and black.

Four intricately carved wooden horses precede each of the chariots.

The temple administration arranges nearly 1,000 big wooden logs and the construction work goes on for two months. Organising the procession costs more than Rs.3 million each year.

“The state forest department has supplied adequate number of wooden logs this year the way it has supplied in the past,” Panda said.

“The annual procession is a celebration symbolic of the journey of Lord Krishna, another name for Lord Jagannath, made from Dwarka in a chariot with Subhadra and Balabhadra to attend a religious function in Kurukshetra some 5,000 years ago,” he explained.

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