Watch flag changing ritual in Puri Jagannath temple which is being performed during evening daily without interruption. This religious ceremony is being performed daily since last 800 years.
The metal wheel at the top of Lord Jagannath temple is known as Neela Chakra (Blue Wheel). The wheel is made of eight metals comprising of iron, copper, zinc, mercury, lead, brass, silver and gold. Its circumference is about 36 feet and it is so designed that there is a wheel within the wheel. The circumference of the inner wheel is about 26 feet. Eight hubs join together the inner and the outer wheels. There are decorative designs on the outer wheel. The thickness of the Neela Chakra is 2 inches.
The flag tied to the Nila Chakra of Jagannath Temple is also known as Patitapabana Bana (in local Odia language ‘Flag’ means ‘Bana’) and it is identical with Lord Jagannath. Devotees who are not allowed to enter into the temple can view the flag from outside to get benefit of seeing the Lord.
Everyday a new flag is tied to the wheel. On every Ekadashi, a lamp is also lit on the top near the Neela Chakra. Changing of flags on the top is adventurous and is considered as a pious event to witness.
Two persons trained since their childhood belonging to particular Chola Family climb up without any help. They are so well trained that it looks as if they are not climbing but flying. Both while having a large number of flags tied around their waste, climb so swiftly that on each step they climb, one can hear the echoing sound of ‘Jai Jagannath’.
They climb and finally change the flag by putting up a new one and bring down the old flags. This is a sight which is never missed if you are there in the Jagannath temple. On way back these old flags are given to devotees on some payment. There is a huge rush to get the flags or even some pieces of the flag.
If you are lucky you may get one or two. This flag is considered for good luck and well being.
As a part of the daily ritual a new flag measuring 20ft long and triangular in shape is prepared everyday by a male member of the Chola family that had been given exclusive rights to hoist the flag 800 years ago by the king who built Jagannath temple.
Since then this ritual is being performed without any break. The new flag flying westwards in the sea breeze is the most thrilling sight you have ever witnessed at any religious place.