Trees Cut from Orissa Forests for Puri Rath Yatra Chariots Could Create Environmental Problems

Each year three new chariots are built for the annual Puri Rath Yatra festival held at the famous Jagannath Temple. Big trees are cut annually from the forests of Orissa for the car festival and the woods are never reused. This is slowly eating away the forests of Orissa and inviting an environmental disaster. But luckily some people are trying to avert the ecological disaster by planting new trees.

The wood needed for the making of the chariots for Puri Rath Yatra is provided free by the Orissa government. In fact, the temple authorities have been finding it difficult to find the right timber needed for making the huge chariots.

The Rath Yatra at the Puri Jagannath Temple has been taking place for centuries. Each year nearly 1000 trees are felled for building the three chariots. The chariot construction requires about 1,135 big logs of about 400 cubic meters.

Trees preferred for chariot making are Phasi, Kadamba, Dharua, Devadaru, Simili, Asana, Mahalima, Moi, Kalachua, Paldhua etc. The Nayagarh forest division and the Khurda forest division provides the trees needed for chariot making.

Raths or Chariots play and important part in Hindu Temple festivals but the same chariot is reused annually. A new chariot is only made when the existing one cannot be used. But it is only at Puri Temple that a new chariot is built each year.

Suggestions were made to reuse the wood used but the priests and a large section of Jagannath devotees opposed it. At present, the dismantled woods from the chariots are used to cook the Mahaprasad (food).

But luckily the planting of trees under the Sri Jagannath Bana Prakalpa program has been successful. The program aims to replace equal number of trees that are felled. But it will take around 40 years for a tree to be mature enough to be used to make chariots. To ease the pressure on the forests, Jagannath devotees are also donating woods needed for making the chariots.

Panchanan Sahu has written an excellent article on the topic in the Kalinga Times. You can read it here.