The 800-years old fascinating flag hoisting ceremony at Puri's Jagannath temple
Jagannath temple is one of the tallest monuments in the country. Astonishingly, standing at an imposing height of about 214 ft atop an elevated platform of stone measuring about 10 acres, it presents the Kalingan Architecture. During my recent visit I happened to witness this grandeur event known as Dhwaja Parivartan or the Flag Change in the premises of the temple.
I was so fascinated that I visited again to feast my eyes for this one of the unique events of the daily rituals which is being performed during evening between 6.00 PM to 7.00 PM daily without interruption. This religious ceremony is being performed daily since last 800 years.
Needless to share that Jagannath temple is a fine example of master piece of Architecture. This temple is crowned with Lord Vishnu Chakara (Wheel) made of an alloy of eight different metals giving a blue colour, popularly called Neel Chakara. The circumference of the wheel is about 36 ft and 11 ft 8 inches (as informed by the priest).
Everyday a new flag is tied to the wheel. I came to know that on every Ekadashi a lamp is also lit on the top of shikhar near the blue wheel. 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 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. I was indeed lucky to bring one such flag which has been adorned in our temple at home. 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. I cannot forget that wonderful sight which I saw continually for two days. The new flag flying westwards in the sea breeze is the most thrilling sight I have ever witnessed at any religious place.