Jagannatha Temple, Puri, Orissa
Also Known As
Snana Yatra or Bathing Festival
Falls On :
Full-moon day of the Jyestha Month (May - June)
Devasnana Purnima or "Snana Yatra" is exclusively a festival of Lord Jagannatha and is said to be one of the oldest. According to "Skanda Purana" when Raja 'Indradyumna' installed the wooden deities he arranged this bathing ceremony. This day is considered to be the birthday of Lord Jagannatha. Held in the full-moon day of the month of 'Jyestha' this festival is also concurrently held in all other important shrines of Orissa. However, the festival being most elaborate and important at Puri , it attracts thousands of visitors and pilgrims from all over the country.
'Niladri Mohadaya', a religious text written in Orissa records the rituals of the festival. 'Sriharsa' in his 'Naisadhiya Charita' also refers to this festival of "Purusottama". This bathing ceremony has a specialty. As this festival does not find mention in the early religious texts, it is believed to be a tribal ceremony, which later crept into the Hindu rites.
Jagannatha in its early form was being worshipped as "Nilamadhaba" by a 'Savara' chief called "Viswabasu". Till now it is the 'Daitas' and 'Savaras' (tribals) who have the exclusive right to conduct the festival. The tribals called "Saoras" belonging to the southern part of
Orissa still perform a rite to bath their deities ceremonially on the last day of the month of
Jyestha. For this they collect water from remote jungles where it remains untouched even by the shadow of the animals. Most probably when
Jagannatha was a Savara God, this festival of the Savaras who tended Him was accepted by the Hindus.
On the previous day of Snana Yatra the images of 'Jagannatha', 'Balabhadra' and 'Subhadra' along with the image of 'Sudarshana' are ceremonially brought out from the sanctum in a procession to the "Snana-Vedi" (Bathing 'Pandal'). This special pandal in the temple precinct of Puri is celled "Snana
Mandapa". It is at such a height that visitors standing outside the temple also get a glimpse of the deities.
After 'Mangala Alati', the 'Suaras' and 'Mahasuaras' go in a ceremonial procession to fetch water from "Suna Kua" (Golden well) in one hundred and thirty, vessels of copper. All of them cover their mouths with a piece of cloth. Then all the vessels filled with water are preserved in the "Bhoga Mandapa". The 'Palla Pandas' (a class of 'Brahms' priests) then purify the water with 'Haridra', 'Jaba', 'Benachera', 'Chandan', 'Aguru', flowers, perfumes and medicinal herbs.
On the fourteenth day ('Chaturdashi') when the idols are taken out in procession, the whole process is called "Pahandi" or "Pahandi
Vijaya". Scholars have given different interpretations of the term ('Pahandi'). Some speak out that it has been derived from the term 'Praspanda' meaning movement. Others are inclined to interpret it as a derivation from
For the festival the Snana Vedi is well decorated with traditional paintings of trees and gardens. Flags and 'toranas' (arches) are also put up. The images are profusely decorated with flowers. All kinds of perfumes such as 'Dhupa', 'Aguru' etc. are then offered. As the 'Pahandi' of the deities takes place to the accompaniment of music and beating of various indigenous drums. Thousands of devotees jostle and crave for a look at the deities in procession.
During the sacred bath the colours painted on the images generally fade. Seeing the wooden deities in discolour devotees may not have the appropriate devotional attitude and in fact may feel sinful repugnance. For this reason the images are immediately dressed as
Ganesha in which they remain mostly covered.
The period of colouring and decorating the images is divided into seven short periods, each of two days duration, and a short period of one-day set apart to give finishing touches. Thus the period covers the whole fortnight.
On the sixteenth day the images in their new forms after renovation become ready for the public view. The festival of the first appearance of the Lord Jagannatha to his devotees is called "Netrotsaba" or "Nava
Yaubana" (new youth). According to popular belief the devotee washes away all his sins if he gets a vision of the Lord on this day. On this occasion, therefore, great rush of people occurs in the temple.