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Devasnana Purnima or Snana Yatra

 

  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.