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. Its circumference is about 36 feet and it is so designed that there is a wheel within the wheel. The circumference 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 wheel is said to be Lord Vishnu's most powerful weapon, Sudarshana Chakra (disk). 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. 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 every day at sunset the Garuda Sevakas climb to the top of 214 feet high temple to fasten flags, offered by the devotees, on the bamboo mast attached to the Neela Chakra. The 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.
Dimensions of the Neela Chakra:
Weight – 2200 kg
Height – 11'8"
Diameter – 7'6"
Thickness of Paridhi – 2 inch
Width of Paridhi – 9 inch
Diameter of central circle – 2'6"
Number of wheel bars – 8
Length of each wheel bar – 1'10"
The pilgrims consider it an act of holiness to offer flags for the Jagannath temple. Every day the Garuda Sevaka carries number of big and small flags to the top of the temple. The flags are either deep red or yellow in color, but a crescent moon and a sun in white color cloth deck the center of a flag. The length of the flag varies from 1 foot to 25 feet and may be more. A devotee has to pay to the temple committee a certain price to tie the flag and the price is determined by the length of a flag.
The sevayat, before climbing the temple, must dress himself in proper clothing. He wears silk cloth and the upper part of his body remains bare. He ties the flags, offered by the devotees, around his waist which he has to tie on the mast that day. He also carries a wooden stick in his hand and sets out to climb the temple. The stick in hand is meant to be used against the monkeys who may attack. He climbs so swiftly that within minutes he is seen at the crest of the dancing hall of the main temple. From here he has to climb about a hundred feet steep wall to reach the Neela Chakra. He climbs this wall in a very peculiar manner, his back to the wall and his two outstretched legs on two raised parts of the wall. After climbing the body of the temple he reaches the head of the temple. This part is orange-shaped and it is impossible to climb this without any help. There is a device made of iron rings and a rope attached permanently on the head of the temple and he reaches the Neela Chakra with the help of this. The entire breath-taking exercise of reaching the Neela Chakra from the temple floor takes around 20 minutes. After climbing the Neela Chakra, he removes the old flags from the pole and ties the new ones.
The Blue Wheel at the top of 214 feet high Jagannath temple serves very practical purpose technically by protecting the temple from thunder strokes and lighting. The eight-metal-alloy has the capacity to absorb the ferocity of thunder bolts and thus the gigantic temple structure remains unharmed. There is a four inch wide metal plate which serves as an earth; 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.