The Forest department of Odisha government has recently undertaken a remarkable initiative in Ganjam district, infusing a human touch into their efforts. They have planted approximately 30,000 ‘phasi’ saplings, specifically sought after for the construction of chariots used in the Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra.
The significance of these phasi logs lies in their application as wheels for the majestic chariots during the Jagannath Rath Yatra. Crafting the wheels necessitates 72 phasi logs, each measuring 14 feet in length and six feet in girth, to cater to the needs of the three divine chariots.
Prabhakar Nayak, Assistant Conservator of Forests in the Ghumusar south division, expressed their proactive approach by stating, “To meet the future demand for phasi logs required for the construction of chariots during the Jagannath Rath Yatra, we have planted around 30,000 phasi and 2,000 neem plants in two prominent areas of Ghumusar south Forest division in Ganjam district.”
The plantation endeavors spanned across a 10-hectare area in Sarabadi and Bajra within the Gumma forest region, falling under the jurisdiction of the Badagarh range.
Sourcing the saplings from various forest divisions, the authorities have diligently ensured the survival of the majority of the plants through protective measures. Mr. Nayak shared, “In the event of any plant mortality, we will promptly replace them. We have established a nursery specifically dedicated to replacing the deceased plants.”
Notably, while the phasi plants were situated within the designated area, neem trees were planted along the boundaries. Furthermore, the entire area has been enclosed by a verdant fence to deter unauthorized access. Forest guards have been deployed to safeguard the plantation, ensuring its sustained growth.
Over the course of approximately 50 years, the forest personnel will nurture the trees until they reach maturity, exemplifying their long-term commitment to this endeavor.
In previous years, the administrator of Puri Jagannath temple encountered difficulties in procuring adequate wood, especially phasi, due to the diminishing presence of this particular species in forested areas. The temple administration had to rely on donations of this species from private lands. Sudarshan Behera, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Ghumusar north, who also oversees Ghumusar south, mentioned that this year, both divisions have contributed wood, including phasi, to the Jagannath temple administration for chariot construction. Grateful for the generous contributions, Mr. Behera acknowledged, “The phasi logs were willingly donated by individuals from their private lands.”
This commendable initiative, infused with a human touch, not only safeguards the ecological balance by promoting afforestation but also ensures the preservation of age-old traditions and cultural practices associated with the iconic Jagannath Rath Yatra