Jagannath temple of Puri, Odisha - flag atop the tower is changed daily!!

Holy flag Jagannath-temple, Puri twitter.com

Above image:  Every day a priest climbs atop the 215 ft tall temple, to change the flag. he is allowed to do it after morning bath and after completing morning ablution and prayer. this tedious job is done by a priest  from the family or sevayats and they hold the hereditary  rights (given 800 years ago) to hoist the flag. Climbers ' ve been trained  since the age of 10-12 years to get rid of fear.......... 

    flag changing Jagannath-temple, Puri indiansareejournal.blog

Holy flag Jagannath-temple, Puri  twitter.com

Holy flag and chakra. Jagannath temple, Puri, odisha dishabytes.com

In the Hindu temples of southern India, the temple flag is hoisted only  during festival time and it is done by  temple priests in the midst of chanting of mantras. For this purpose, every Hindu temple built based on Agama Shastras has a tall flagpole called Dwajasthambam facing the main shrine comprising garbhagriha- sanctum . Mostly made of  superior quality wood, flag-pole  is often metal plated - copper or brass. Many temples, particularly, in Kerala do have gold-plated Dwajasthambam.  The Dwaja rohana is an auspicious ritual in all historical temples.

Jagannath temple, Puri, odisha   istockphoto.com

In the world famous  iconic Puri Jagannath temple, the huge holy temple flag - Patita Pavana Bana  flies atop the Shikara which is as tall as a 25 story building.   An unusual, but simple ritual, uncommon in many south Indian temples as well as other parts of India is  it is changed every day. This odd  tradition called  Chunara Seva is more than 1000 years old  and continues even today.  The “Chuna Garuda Sevaks” climb 215 ft tall tower on the Garba Mandira. 

Holy temple. Jagannath temple, Puri, odisha indiansareejournal.blog

It is believed that  the holy  flag of Jagannatha and the the Nila Chakra  (the blue wheel; mystical disc of God Vishnu), on top are objects of veneration and divine symbols of protection to all. The Chakra, an eight metal alloy (Ashta-datu), with 12 ft diameter  is made of  two concentric rings, and joined by eight spokes with eight Nava-kunjaras, native to Odisha. all facing the flag-staff.

The holy  triangular shaped  temple flag (made of cloth, in red, yellow or white) with a patchwork of crescent moon and sun is fixed to the Nila-chakra by a 21 feet bamboo staff on the temple top.  If devotees, are unable to enter the temple and offer prayers, they can outside the shrine, have a darshan of holy chakra that is tied with the temple flag. It is equal to worshiping the deity inside the temple. In Tamil we call it Gopura Darshanam which is common in many places. 

Daily flag-changing  being part of daily temple ritual, a new flag measuring 20 ft long and triangular in shape is reverentially  stitched  everyday by a particular  male member of the Chola family. The timing is 5 pm during winter and 6pm during summer time.

Trained people are allowed to remove the old flag and tie the new one atop the tall tower. Mind you they have to climb the entire  tall tower barefoot without any support.  Only members from the   Chola Family climb without any help. With a cluster of flags made of cloth tied around their waist, they climb the historical tower with considerable ease like mountain goats and do the job with devotion. When move up swiftly at each step they  shout ''jai Jagannath''; this boosts their concentration and confidence.   

It is a great religious undertaking for these people who change the temple flag daily at a dizzy height, risking their lives. But their training and techniques come handy for them. It us a tedious feat to take the new flags up and bring down the old ones. During the ritual, there is no chanting of mantras or playing of music. However, it is mentioned, the puja rituals in the various shrines in the temple will begin  once the new flags are set on top of the temple.  

In 2019 during the monsoon season when powerful cyclone Fani approached coastal Puri town, it blew away the huge holy flag on the temple.  After the weather became normal temporarily small flags were put on the temple top.  As per the changed timing, the flag will be submitted at the office at 3 pm and it 'll be tied at 4 pm, as per new regulation since Oct. 2019.