The metal wheel at the top of Lord Jagannath temple is known as Neela Chakra (Blue Wheel). The wheel is made of eight metals comprising of iron, copper, zinc, mercury, lead, brass, silver and gold. It's circumferance is about 36 feet and it is so designed that there is a wheel within the wheel. The circumferance of the inner wheel is about 26 feet. Eight hubs join together the inner and the outer wheels. There are decorative designs on the outer wheel. The thickness of the Neela Chakra is 2 inches.
The flag pole attached to the Neela Chakra is 38 feet long. After covering the breadth of the Neela Chakra, this pole extends 25 feet high above it. The figures carved on the outer circumference of the outer wheel are figures of eight Navagunjaras. In Hindu mythology the Navagunjara or Nabagunjara is a creature formed out of the parts of nine different animals and birds. All the eight Navagunjaras are facing towards the Neelachakra Flag.
There is a specific category of people among the temple sevayats to serve the Neela Chakra and they are known as Garuda Sevaka or Chunara Nejoga. The pilgrims hold these sevayats in high esteem because everyday at Sunset the Garuda Sevakas climb to the top of 214 feet high temple to fasten flags , offered by the devotees, on the flag pole attached to the Neela Chakra.
Importance of Neela Chakra
The wheel is said to be Lord Vishnu's most powerful weapon, Sudarshana Chakra (disk). The Neela Chakra is different from the Sudarshana Chakra which has been worshipped with the Deities in the inner sanctorum. Inside Lord Jagannath temple, Lord Vishnu's wheel is also worshipped in the name of 'Sudarshana'. But inside the temple Sudarshana is not in the shape of a wheel, but in the shape of a small wood pillar placed to the left of image of Lord Jagannath. It is believed that the same Sudarshana is also at the top of the temple and is known by the name of Neela Chakra.
During the ' Anasara' period when the three Deities suffer from fever and devotees can not see them on the Ratna Singhasana in the temple, they get satisfaction after having darshana of Neela Chakra and Patitapabana Bana. The pilgrims consider it an act of holiness to offer flags for the Jagannath temple.
Measurement of Neela Chakra
Scientific importance of Neela Chakra
The Blue Wheel, at the top of 214 feet high Jagannath Temple, serves very practical purpose technically by protecting the high rise temple from thunder strokes and lighting. The eight metal alloy has the capacity to absorb the ferocity of thunder bolts and thus the gigantic stone-moment remains unharmed. There is a four inch wide metal plate which serves as an earthing, it connects the wheel and a well in the southern side of the temple, close to the Goddess Vimala temple. This metal plate is about 300 feet long.
History of Neela Chakra
Since construction of the Jagannath Temple, the Neela Chakra has been repaired and replaced four times due to damages by deterioration and weathering. First reconstruction and installation were undertaken during the regime of Bhoi King Ramachandra Deva in 16th century CE. Thereafter, King Dibyasingha Deva reinstalled it in 1715 CE. The last replacement was by the Archeological Survey of India in 2010 CE.