17 June 2019
Puri: Snana Purnima is the bathing ceremony of the Holy Trinity (Lord Jagannath and his siblings Balabhadra and Subhadra) in Puri, celebrated on the full moon day of Jyestha month. It is believed to be one of the oldest rituals of the temple, and some even observe this festival as the birthday of Lord Jagannath.
On the day of Snana Purnima (Chaturdashi) the deities, Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra along with Sudarshana and Madanmohana are escorted ceremoniously to the Snana Mandap (bathing pandal) from the sanctum sanctorum in a procession (‘Pahandi’) amidst chanting of mantras and beating of various indigenous drums. The Snana Mandapa is situated to the north-east of Ananda Bazar and besides the outer wall of the temple (called Meghanada Pacheri). The length and breadth of this bathing platform is 76 feet.
Water is fetched from the Golden Well (Suna Kua) present in the premises of the temple, in 108 copper vessels and is then purified by adding flowers, perfumes and various medicinal herbs to it. Water from this well is used only once a year, for this occasion only. During the entire process, all of them cover their mouths with a piece of cloth so as not to contaminate it even with their breath. Then all the pots filled with water are preserved in the ‘Bhoga Mandap’.
After the bathing ceremony, the deities are dressed up in Hathi Besha in the form of Lord Ganesha. A Bhog is offered, after which the deities appear for Sahanamela (public viewing) in the evening. Later, the Bahuda Pahandi is conducted when the deities retire late in the night to the 'Anasara' house in the temple premises, to re-appear 15 days later before the public.
Legend has it that after the sacred ritualistic bath, the deities fall ill and are kept away from public view in a special sick room called 'Ratan Bedi' and all daily rites of the temple remain suspended. This period is called the 'Anabasara', and during these days, the deities are treated by Raj Baidya (king's physician). The Trinity is offered only fruits and medicinal water.
During the sacred bath, the colours of the idols fade out which are repainted by the Daita (descendants of Viswasu) with new colours in this period. The Trinity make their repainted appearance just a day before the famous Ratha Yatra, which is referred to as the Netrotsava (festival for the eyes) or the Naba Yauvanotsava (festival of ever new youth).