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Mrunal Manmay Dash

Clouds of uncertainty now looms large over chariot construction for the annual Rath Yatra in Keonjhar district. Due to the shortage of timber, the carpenters are now in apprehension whether the work of world's tallest chariot can be completed on time or not for this year’s festival.

With just less than two months to go for Rath Yatra, the statement by the chief carpenter about the shortage of timber has dampened the mood of thousands of Jagannath devotees who throng the mining town every year for a glimpse of Lord Jagannath on board the chariot.

As per reports, unlike the main event in Puri where the chariots are disassembled and made from the scratch each year, the chariot in Keonjhar is disassembled once in every three years. However, the chariot is repaired, and broken/weakened pieces are replaced by fresh timber every year.

The chief carpenter had earlier written a letter to the Endowment Executive Officer of Sri Baldev Jew temple requesting for more timber as soon as possible. However, nothing has been allegedly materialised yet, pushing the Rath Yatra celebrations this year into uncertainty.

Speaking to reporters, Nilamani Maharana, the chief carpenter of Lord Jagannath chariot said, “Some logs of the existing chariot are damaged and need urgent replacement. We normally do not get enough timber to create new chariot every year. So, we manage by just repairing it by whatever logs we get. But this time around, even the few necessary logs for repairing the chariot have not reached us yet.”

This has raised concerns among the senior citizens in the town as well. “There is an urgent need to replace the base of the chariot which has been damaged. The forest department should make them available as soon as possible,”said Naba Kishore Sahu, general secretary of the Senior Citizens Front.

The famous chariot of Lord Jagannath in Keonjhar was recently adjudged as the largest Ratha Yatra chariot by the Guinness Book of World Records. Keonjhar Collector Ashish Thakre on Friday informed about the record on the sidelines of a special function.

As per the record mentioned by guinnessworldrecords.com, the Ratha Yatra chariot in Keonjhar measures 22 m (72 ft) x 14 m (45 ft) x 14 m (45 ft). It was inducted into Guinness Book of World Records on August 2, 2019.

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