Puri in Odisha is getting ready for the biggest festival of the year.
Puri: 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.
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.
Speaking to ANI, 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."
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.
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.
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.