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Chandan Yatra

  Chandan Yatra

The festival, starting from Akshyaya Trutiya, which falls in April-May, lasts for twenty-one days and is held in the month of Baisakh at the height of the summer heat when Chandan (sandal-paste) and water are essential to keep people cool. As the Hindu deities are modeled on the behavior of human beings, they are also given the same treatment. During this festival they are taken out of the temples in procession for perambulation in water on floats or boats. The richly decorated boats are called 'Chapa'. 'Chapa' is the Oriya equivalent of 'float'. In most of the Vishnu as well as Shiva temples the festival of the 'float' marks the conclusion of the prime annual festival and it is celebrated with much pomp. The belief probably is that the deity having concluded his ceremonial perambulation with all attendant paraphernalia on land, must have his aquatic sojourn before He returns to the sanctum of the temple to come out only for the next festival.

This festival is most elaborate in Puri and attracts thousands of pilgrims from far and near. On all the twenty-one days the entire road from the shrine of Lord Jagannath leading up to the Narendra Sarobar (a sacred tank in Puri town) along with the houses on both sides is decorated. At some places, especially in front of Maths (monasteries) or at cross-roads big toranas (arches) are erected where the idols take casual rest and receive offerings The representative images of the deities installed in temples such as Madanmohan (representing Lord Jagannath), Laxmi and Saraswati are taken in a richly decorated palanquin by the sevakas(servitors) accompanied by priests, musicians and dancers to the Narendra Sarobar at night. The tank is profusely lighted with thousands of spectators milling and jostling all around in expectation of the arrival of the procession. The principal deities are also followed by different deities from different shrines of the town. After reaching the Narendra Sarobar, the images are placed on different well decorated boats and they are rowed for a long time. accompanyined by dance and music on the boat.

Generally, the colors chosen for the boats are red and white and they are so designed to look like huge swans floating on water. The peculiarity of the ceremony is that Madanmohana with Laxmi and Saraswati rides on the white coloured raft where-as Ramakrishna with pancha Shivas rides the red one. All the deities on the boat take several rounds in the water which continue till early hours of the morning and then retire to the respective shrines. The last day of the festival is called Bhaunri (Bhramari or circle) when special and more elaborate arrangements are made.

Most of the important festivals of Lord Jagannath at Puri are also followed in all other important shrines of Orissa. Following tradition of the Puri the images are taken out in procession on planquins to the nearby tanks and perambulated in water on boats. In all such temples it is observed only for the last three days. After the ceremony which usually takes place at mid-night, people enjoy performances of dance, drama and music specially arranged for this occasion.

At Bhubaneswar the Chandan festival of Lord Lingaraj is observed in Bindu Sagar, a huge tank near the temple. Here, the float is moved to the Mandapa in the middle of the tank. The mandap is an inlet-like structure which is more an elevated platform.

Devasnana Purnima or Snana Yatra

Devasnana Purnima or Snana Yatra(the Bathing Festival) is exclusively a festival of Lord Jagannath 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 birth-day of Lord Jagannath. Held in the full-moon day of the month of Jyestha, which falls in May-June. this festival is also simultaneously held in all other imprortant shrines of Orissa. However, the festival being most elaborate and important at Puri, it attracts thousands of visitors and piligrims from all over the country.

Niladri Mahodaya', a religious text written in Orissa records the rituals of the festival. Sriharsa in his 'naisadhiya Charita' (XV. 89) also refers to this festival of Purusottama. On the day of Snana Yatra, the images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra along with the image of Sudarshana are ceremonially brought out from the sanctum in a ritual procession to the Snana-Bedi (Bathing pandal). It is at such a height that visitors standing outside the temple also get a glimpse of the deities. This is another occasion for the non-Hindus who are not allowed to enter the temple to see the images from the Grand Road(the other is the Ratha Yatra)

The bathing festival takes place during the morning hours.After the deities are seated on the bathing platform, 108 pithers of holy water collected from the sacred wells in the prencincts of the temple, are poured on them. The filled vessels are carried from Bhoga Mandap to the Snana Bedi by the Suaras in a long single-line procession. This ritual is called 'Jaladhibasa'. Prior to the bathing ceremony the images are covered with silken clothes and then smeared with red powder. Then water is poured, the rituals performed and 'Pavamana' hymns chanted. After the bath the deities are so dressed that together they appear like the image of Ganesha. This is called Ganesha Besa or Gajanana Besa. It is said that a staunch devotee of Lord Ganesha and himself a profound scholar visited Puri during Snana Yatra, he was amply rewarded by the king of Orissa for his scholarship. The king asked the scholar to accompany him to see Lord Jagannath which he refused under the pretext that he wouldn't worship any God other than Ganesha. Somehow he was persuaded and brought before the Snana Bedi. To the utter surprise of all, Lord Jagannath appeared as Ganesha. Since then during Snana Yatra when the sacred bath is performed, the deities are dressed like Ganesha. Various other legends are also told and reasons assigned explaining the Ganesha besa.

During the sacred bath the colors painted on the images generally fade. Seeing the wooden deities in discolor 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.

It is believed that consequent upon the long bath, the gods suffer from cold and fever. Hence after the Snana Yatra, the images are kept away from public view for fifteen days for treatment for which specific rituals are performed . This period of isolation is called 'Anabasara' or ‘Anasara’ meaning improper time for worship. During all these days the daily rites of the temple remain suspended and the images, disfigured due to the ceremonial bath, are given a fresh coat of paint. On the 16th day the images in their new forms are ready for the public view. Their first appearance after the bathing festival is called Netrotsaba or Nava Yaubana Darshana ( view of 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.