Pradeep Pattanayak

Of the 12 main festivals observed in Srimandir all throughout the year, ‘Snana Yatra’ or the ‘Deva Snana Purnima’ is one of them.

This festival is observed on the full moon day of the month of Jyestha. The importance of this festival lies in two facts. First, it is believed to be the birthday of Lord Jagannath. Second, this is the first occasion when the Holy Trinity is taken out of the sanctum sanctorum. The deities are taken out in a traditional procession called ‘Dhadi Pahandi’ from the sanctum sanctorum to the Snana bedi or the bathing altar, located in the northeast corner of the Bahara Bedha.

Before the procession, the deities are made to wear ‘Senapatta’, a body armour made of ‘Baula’ wood. ‘Senapatta’ is essential for the deities to bear the stress during the procession.

Atop the bathing altar, certain rituals like Mangalarpana, Mangala Alati, Tadaplagi Niti, Adharapocha, Abakasa, Surya Puja and Dwarapala Puja are performed. Then the deities are bathed with 108 pitchers of fragrant divine water brought from ‘Suna Kua’ or the golden well. This well is near the north gate of the temple. The importance of the well is that its water is used only once a year and the occasion is Snana Yatra.

The pots used for drawing water from the golden well are preserved in ‘Bhoga Mandap’. They are first purified using turmeric, sandalwood and flowers. Then a set of specific servitors called ‘Suaras’ and ‘Mahasuaras’ go in a ceremonial procession to fetch water from the golden well.

During this whole process, the Suaras’ and ‘Mahasuaras’ servitors follow an age-old tradition of covering their mouths with a piece of cloth so as not to contaminate the water even with their breath.

Atop the ‘Snana Bedi’, 35 pots of water are used for bathing Lord Jagannath, 33 pots of water for Balabhadra, 22 for Devi Subhadra and 18 pots of water for Lord Sudarshan. The ritual, also known as ‘Jalabhishek’, is performed amid chanting of Vedic mantras, kirtan, beating of gongs and blowing of conch shells. Then Puri King Gajapati Dibyasingha Deb, the first servitor of Lord Jagannath, performs the 'Chhera Panhara' ritual on the bathing altar.

After the completion of the ‘Chhera Panhara’ ritual, the main attraction of the festival ‘Hati Besha’ or ‘Gajanana Besha’ is conducted.

While Lord Jagannath and Lord Balabhadra adorn the ‘Hati Besha’ or the ‘Gajanana Besha’, Devi Subhadra appears in Padma Besha (Lotus attire). Certain servitors like Palia Puspalaka, Khuntia, Mekap and Daitapati conduct the besha and as per the prolonged tradition, the materials required for this attire are supplied by Raghaba Das mutt and Gopal Tirtha Mutt.

According to a belief, the deities are dressed as Lord Ganesha to satisfy the followers of the Ganapatya sect.

There is a legend behind this ‘Hati Besha’

In the 15th century, a devotee of Lord Ganesha named Pandit Ganapati Bhatt of the Mahaganapatya community visited the shrine to have a darshan of Lord Jagannath. The day was Devasnana Purnima. He witnessed the deities seated on the bathing altar. But he had a wish to see Lord Ganesha within Lord Jagannath. As he couldn’t see that, he returned with disappointment.

On his way back, he was stopped by a priest. The priest was none other than Lord Jagannath. He requested Bhatt to return to the temple where he could see his Lord Ganesha. When he came back to the temple, he danced with joy after seeing Lord Ganesha within Lord Jagannath. From that day onwards, the ritual is being observed.

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