Who Speaks for the Chariot Makers? – A Group Of Craftsmen Make Identical Jagannath Chariots Every Year

As we celebrate the oldest and grandest Rath Yatra with much fanfare, it is worth noticing that these life size identical chariots made by the group of Odisha craftsmen are the testament to their unflinching devotion for Lord Jagannath and His two siblings – Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra.

Following the 12th century tradition, these chariots begin their journey from Jagannath Temple in Puri   and reach the Gundicha Temple. Despite having any formal education in art & craft or even in modern machinery or design, the precision of these handmade chariots is immutable as they dont use any type of equipment. Craftsmen acquire the art of chariot making through family lineage and tradition, having the hereditary rights to construct.

As per a report, Bijay Mohapatra, the chief Biswakarma (carpenter) of Lord Jagannath’s Nandighosh chariot informed that they only use traditional equipment like a chisel and other tools for the construction of chariots. The makers use the units of haat (hand size) and anguli (finger size) for measurement and do not use other units like feet or inches.

According to Mohapatra, “His father has given him a stick. This stick is considered as one haat It is equivalent to 20 inches. Twenty-five angulis make a haat. So these measurements are used to calibrate the height and width of the chariots.”

Apart from carpenters, even artisans and blacksmiths participate in the making of the chariots. Pahi Maharanas fix the wheels of the chariots, Ojha Maharanas (blacksmiths) prepare nails, pins, clamps and iron rings.

The children learn the craft from their fathers and help in building the chariots. They start building the chariots on the Akshaya Tritiya and take approximately 57 days to finish them. After the conclusion of the festivity, the various parts of chariots are auctioned and the remaining wood is consumed in the daily rituals of the temple.

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