Puri Car festival, carpenters on job to complete chariots

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Puri, Jun 30 (UNI) Over a hundred traditional carpenters have been working day and night to complete the construction of the three huge chariots for the annual Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath, his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Devi Subhadra to be held on July 4.

The construction work of the three chariots, which commenced on the auspicious Akshyaya Tritiya day, would be completed within 44 days, a day prior to the car festival.

The construction started after the temple priests handed over Ajnamallyas (order of the lord) from Lord Jagannath to the Biswakarmas (chief carpenters).

A number of carpenters and their assistants worked under a chief carpenter called Maharana. Sutar maharana and Tali maharana, who belong to the lower order of the chief carpenter, too supervised the ongoing work at the ratha khala (construction yard) along the grand road.

The carpenters, who had come from various remote villages of the district, belong to economically backward classes and were unhappy the way they were being paid for the holy work.

''Every year we used to construct Nandighosh rath (13.9 metres height) of Lord Jagannath with 16 giant wheels, Taladhwaj (13.5 metres height) of Balabhadra with 14 wheels and Darpadalan rath (12.9 meters height) of Devi Subhadra with 12 wheels using total 872 pieces of timber of various tree species like Asan, Dhaura and Phasi,'' Bijay Kumar Mohapatra, the head carpenter, said.

Specific types of timber logs are used to prepare the axle, wheel and the spokes besides the other parts of the rath. All the three rathas are fitted with unique shock absorber systems with manual operated front brakes.

Mohapatra said the then rulers had granted them the right to take balance timber as ''Khei''(remuneration) but the temple administration had now stopped and compensating it in terms of rupees.

Carpenters work for nearly 10 hours per day under the supervision of senior Maharanas in the Ratha Khala (construction yard).

''Sometimes we have to work over time in the event of work being hampered due to natural calamity like rains and cyclone to meet the deadline,'' he said.

Besides these carpenters a number of roopakaras (sculptors and painters) display their skills by engraving and colouring the images of Parswadevatas guarding deities on all four sides of the chariots.

They use bright traditional colours to decorate the images created by the wood sculptors on detachable wood pieces. After colouring them, they fix them to places around the rathas.

A number of blacksmiths also display their skills to strengthen the weak portions particularly the wheels by reinforcing them with iron clamps and hooks.

Besides these a set of traditional tailors (Durjees) work for a week to deck the rathas with their assigned coloured cloth to make the chariots attractive and colourful.

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