Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Tie a Flag on Neelachakra of Lord Jagannath Temple (Chunara Seva)

It is strongly believed through ages that whoever ties a flag on the Neelachakra of the Lord Jagannath Temple, Puri ; the age-old wishes get fulfilled and receives the blessings of the Lord.
The Lord of Jagannath ensconced in his sanctum sanctorum is sought by millions of devotees. However many are not privileged  to gain an entry into the temple. For such deprived people, the “Patitapabana Bana” – the fluttering flag atop the crest of the Lord Jagannath temple is the only source of consolation. Flying at a height of 215 feet, the flag keeps ricocheting of the greatness of the Lord.
Among the 36 major rituals or sevas (service rituals to the Lord Jagannath), one is the the “Chunara Seva” or the act of tying the flag on the pole attached to the Nilachakra  – The sacred wheel. The act is done daily and every day by a special group of sevayat who carries number of big and small flags to the top of the temple. The flags are either deep red or yellow in color, but a crescent moon and a sun in white colour cloth deck the centre of a flag. The length of the flag varies from 1 feet to 25 feet and may be more. At present there are eight families in Puri who have  the right to climb up to the crown of the shrine and elevate the godly ensign.
Before approaching the task, they take seek the blessings of goddess Bimala who is believed to protect them from adversities. The task which is frought with visible dangers is difficult to perform. Strong wind keep lashing the crown of the temple almost every moment which is enough to unsettle anyone. Add to it the menace of the monkeys that you need to shoo off constantly before approaching the spire. This ritual demands guts. The climber uses neither ladders, nor climbing boots. Neither is the use of any other equipment for climbing is permitted. The sevayat fastens the flags offered by the devotee around his waist and gets going. This is how it has been done since generations. And this is how it is done even today.
To officially register for a turn to be allowed to climb and hoist the divine flag, one has to approach the temple administration and then gain the unanimous approval of the “Chunara” community members. After vigorous trainings and rehearsals, one is  needed to perform one final time  in the presence of all senior members . If he qualifies, he has to treat his kinsmen with the Mahaprasad of the temple.
The sevayat before climbing the temple must dress in proper clothing. He wears silk cloth and the upper part of his body remains bare. He ties the flags, offered by the devotees, around his waist which he has to tie on the mast that day. He also carries a wooden stick in his hand and sets out to climb the temple. The stick in hand is meant to be used against the monkeys who may attack. He climbs so swiftly that within minutes he is seen at the crest of the dancing hall of the main temple. From here he has to climb about a hundred feet steep wall to reach the Neela Chakra.
He climbs this wall in a very peculiar manner, his back to the wall and his two outstretched legs on two raised parts of the wall. After climbing the body of the temple he reaches the head of the temple. This part is orange-shaped and it is impossible to climb this without any help. There is a device made of iron rings and a rope attached permanently on the head of the temple and He reaches the Neela chakra with the help of this. The entire breath taking exercise of reaching the Neela Chakra from the temple floor takes around 20 minutes. After climbing the Neela Chakra, he removes the old flags from the pole and ties the new ones.
The flags are usually givem by the devotees who consider it an act of holiness to offer flags for the Jagannath temple. A devotee has to pay to the temple committee a certain price to tie the flag and the price is determined by the length of a flag. Mentioned below is the deatil pertaining to the spherical wheel that is placed atop the Jagannath temple.

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