Puri: The much-awaited Snana Yatra has begun in the holy town san devotees this year. It is being held the full-moon day of the month of Jyestha is the ‘Devasnan Purnima’ or ‘Snana Yatra’.
According to Skanda Purana when King Indradyumna installed the wooden deities he arranged this bathing ceremony. The Snana Yatra is also believed to be a tribal ceremony as Lord Jagannath in his early form was being worshipped as Nilamadhava by a Savara chief called Viswabasu.
The tribals (called Saoras or Sabaras) 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.
On the previous day of Snana Yatra the images of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra along with the image of Sudarshana are ceremonially brought out from the inner sanctum of the main temple in a procession, called ‘Pahandi’, to the Snana Mandapa (Bathing pandal).
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.
The Snana Mandap is at such a height that visitors standing outside the temple also gave a glimpse of the Deities. On this auspicious day, the Suaras and Mahasuaras go in a ceremonial procession to fetch 108 pots of water from the Golden well (called ‘Suna Kua’).
The holy water is drawn from this well once in a year. 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’.
The priests purify the water with Haladi (turmeric), Java (whole rice), Sandal (Chandan), flowers and perfumes. The rituals are accompanied by chanting of Vedic mantras by the priests, kirtana and blowing of conch shells.
At evening, after the bath ritual, the Deities assume the special elephant form which is otherwise known as ‘Hati Vesha’. Lord Jagannatha and Lord Balabhadra are dressed like an elephant, and Goddess Subhadra wears a lotus flower ‘besha’.
In India, this period (Jyestha month) is the hottest time, just prior to the monsoons. Due to the number of bathing liquids that are offered to cool the Holy Trinity’s transcendental bodies, their painted form takes a bit of a wash-out.
The deities are painted on with natural earthly mineral paints, not modern oil-based paints, so when water is applied to cool their forms it also fades away the paint. For this reason, the images are immediately dressed in the Hati Besha in which they remain mostly covered.
Anabasara or Anasara
After the Snana Yatra, the deities are kept away from public view for fifteen days and during all these days the daily rites of the temple remain suspended. As Jagannatha himself instructed, after this ceremony, he is not seen for a fortnight.
During these fifteen days the Daitas (descendants of Viswavasu, the Savara) repaint and restore the Deities and Jagannath’s fine decorations. The Deities are kept on a special “sick room” called the Ratan Bedi inside the temple. This period is called ‘Anabasara Kala’ meaning improper time for worship.
During ‘Anabasara’, the Daitas offer to the Deities only fruits and water mixed with cheese, and Dasa Mula medicines to cure his fever. In a devotional mood, the devotees accept that due to all the bathing the Lord becomes transcendentally poor, and therefore needs to take rest.
During the ‘Krishnapaksha’ of Ashadha month, after the Snana Yatra when Lord Jagannath is in the infirmary, he is believed to manifest as Alarnath Dev and gets worshipped at the Alarnath temple in Bramhagiri (25 kilometres from Puri). During ‘anasara,’ ‘mahaprasada’ (offering) for Lord Jagannath is available in Anandabazar of Alarnath. The ‘kheer’ offered there is regarded as very special.
Human Form of the Holy Trinity
Like human beings, they are considered to have fallen ill and are treated by the Raj Vaidya or the King’s physician with specific medicines (Dasamulas). On the 16th day, the Deities in their new forms after renovation become ready for the public view – darshan.
The festival of the first appearance of the Lord Jagannath to his devotees is called “Netrotsava” (festival for the eyes). According to priests of the Jagannath temple, a devotee washes away all sins if he/she gets a vision of the Lord on this day.