Rath Yatra in Puri is a renowned procession of pulling the chariots of deities named Jagannath (Lord Vishnu avatar), along with his brother Balabhadra, Sister Subhadra and Sudarshan Chakra, Lord Vishnu's weapon.
A few days ahead of the holy Rath Yatra, also known as Gundicha Yatra of Lord Jagannatha and his siblings, the final preparations are being carried out to celebrate the nine-day festival with great pomp and show at the coastal town of Puri.
The festival which will commence from July 4, accommodates devotees from around the world. In the Rath Yatra, three chariots for the deities- Lord Balabhadra, Lord Jagannatha and Devi Subhadra are constructed every year. These sacred carriers are prepared, decorated and assembled by the traditional artists. The craftsmen follow strict rules to participate as servitors in preparing the chariots, which commence on the day of Akshay Tritiya.
Efforts Behind This Rath Yatra…
Thousands of handcrafters work for several months and prepare everything from scratch. Starting from cutting the wood to painting it and putting different parts of Rath together, everything is done with complete authenticity.
Rajendra Kumar Mohapatra, carpenter, said, "Our work is to craft designs on woods over which Lord Jagannatha will be placed. There are different experts for separate departments, while some are involved in painting others cut or design the wood logs used in the chariot preparation. For example, after we will forge designs on logs, the painter will fill it with beautiful and attractive colours."
What Is The Reason Behind This Procession???
It is believed that not just good fortune but good deeds of the past birth provides one with the opportunity to participate as servitors under Lord Jagannatha.
"I have been privileged to serve Lord Jagannatha because of the good karma from the past life. I am serving Lord Jagannatha from around 40 years now. My whole family participates in this work from generations and with God's grace will take this legacy forward," he added.
The Purity They Maintain…
Rath servitors keep themselves pure from the time they involve in the holy preparations every year. During the whole procedure, they only consume vegetarian food and keep their body clean and pure.
"Since I was 10-year-old, I have been working here. There is endless minute work that goes on to produce the final product. The commencement of chariot preparations starts from a month prior to the festival and we also make sure to finish it 2-3 days ahead of holy carnival. In order to work for the lord, we keep ourselves pure by eating only vegetarian food. This work is very crucial and makes us feel more close to our God," said one of the painters, Chinmay Moharana.
What All Is Needed To Prepare A Chariot???
A lot of raw material especially wood is used to make such humongous chariots. Forest & Environment Department of Odisha provides different type of woods, especially for the festival.
"The rath is prepared from approx 6-7 types of woods such as Phasi, Dhora, Asan and Mahi. These woods are sent by the Forest department of Odisha every year. The chariots are about 50 foot tall and have 16, 14 and 12 wheels in Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra's rath respectively," said, chief carpenter, Vijaya Ku Mohapatra.
The prime attractions of the Rath Yatra of Jagannatha are the elaborate chariots. The decorative wooden idols of the three deities are pulled and accompanied by chants and conches, which can be heard all around.
Where Do This Yatra Commences From???
"The yatra starts from Jagannathan temple and ends at Gundicha temple by covering 2 -3 kilometers distance. The ritual of pulling the rope, which is 50 meters in length, of the rath is done by common public and policemen. Not only devotees from India but also from France, America, Japan and Chile visit Puri to celebrate and participate in the festival," he added.
To facilitate such great gathering of devotees for Rath Yatra state government also gear up with tightened security to avoid any mishappening during the festival.