Puri, June 23 : Preparations are in full swing to put together the famous wooden chariots of Lord Jagannath in Puri for the annual festival, which is scheduled to begin next month.
Skilled craftsmen were working day and night to put together the wooden chariots.
Building these chariots is a very skilled job as these giant wooden structures resembling Biblical vehicles weigh tens of tonnes and wheels more than two meters in diameter.
The carpenters who work on making the chariots have been doing the task for generations.
"I have been making these chariots since the past 50 years. I have been bequeathed this work from my father. Today, I have mastered the art," said Lingarat Mohapatra, a carpenter.
For most of the workers and craftsmen, who have been making the sacred chariot of Lord Jagannath through generations, it is a labour of reverence and faith.
"It is a privilege to make this chariot," said Bijot Kumar Mohapatra, another carpenter.
The festival is celebrated by pulling out large wooden wheel chariots oford Jagannath, along with sister Subhadra and brother Balram from the templehrough the city's decorated streets for over six hours.
Usually, the Lord Jagannath, brother Balabhadra and their sister Subhadra are worshipped within the temple. But on the day of the Rath Yatra (car festival) they are taken through the streets so that everyone can have a holy glimpse. Three heavily decorated chariots, resembling temple structures, are pulled through the streets of Puri. New chariots are built every year.
This commemorates the annual journey of these three deities to their aunt's temple (Gundicha Mandir), two kilometres from their temple. The idols of the deities are rested for seven days before their return to the main temple.
The Rath Yatra is held in June-July and has been going on for the last ten centuries though the existing temple was built in 12th century A.D.
Believed to be the world's biggest religious procession by many individuals, the annual Rath Yatra (chariot journey) involves a sea of devotees, who follow a series of hand-pulled, brightly decorated chariots carrying idols of the deities. The three chariots are pulled by thousands of devotees. The yatra is a round trip from the main temple to another nearby temple where the idols of the deities rest for seven days before their return to the main temple.
The Jagannath temple is about 60 kilometres from Bhubaneswar, the State capital of Orissa. By Sarda Lahangir