Pradeep Pattanayak

With the completion of Deva Snana Purnima, the 15-day-long ‘Anasara’ or quarantine period of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra begins. During this period, the deities are down with fever and remain out of bounds for darshan. 

But Lord Jagannath doesn’t disappoint His devotees. It is believed that Lord Jagannath manifests as Lord Alarnath and the darshan of Lord Alarnath brings the same blessings and fortune as those after the darshan of Lord Jagannath. 

This is why devotees make a beeline at Alarnath temple in Brahmagiri, 25 kilometres away from Puri, to have a darshan of Lord Jagannath. 

On Deba Snana Purnima, which falls on the full-moon day of the Hindu month of the Jyestha, the deities are taken out in a traditional procession called ‘Pahandi’ from the sanctum sanctorum to the Snana bedi or the bathing altar, located in the northeast corner of the Bahara Bedha.  

Atop the bathing altar, the deities are bathed with 108 pitchers of fragrant divine water brought from Suna Kua or the golden well.
Following the tradition, 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.

After the lavish bath, the deities are believed to develop a fever. Then they are taken in Anasara Pahandi to a sick room called ‘Anasara Ghara’.

There they stay for a period of 15 days. During this period, devotees make a beeline at Alarnath temple in Brahmagiri to have a darshan of Lord Alarnath, who is believed to be the incarnation of Lord Jagannath. 

In the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, Lord Vishnu’s standing idol holding ‘sankha’ (conch shell), ‘chakra’ (wheel), ‘gada’ (mace) and ‘padma’ (lotus) in four arms is worshipped. 

The idol is made of black chlorite. Lord’s carrier Garuda can be found kneeling at the feet of the deity with hands folded in a prayer position. 

Devotees visiting Alarnath temple also get ‘Mahaprasad’ at the ‘Ananda Bazaar’ like the way they get in Srimandir in Puri. Here, the same amount of Prasad is offered to Lord Alarnath as it is offered to Lord Jagannath in Srimandir during normal days. 

Besides ‘Mahaprasad’, devotees also get Lord Alarnath’s favourite pudding ‘kheer’. Even though ‘kheer’ is available all throughout the year at the temple’s ‘Ananda Bazaar’, the demand for it goes up significantly during the ‘Anasara’ period.  

There is a beautiful legend regarding the worship of Lord Alarnath during the ‘Anasara’ period. 

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the 15th-century saint, is considered as Lord Krishna’s avatar by his followers. Once he came to Puri. During his stay in the holy town, he used to have darshan of Lord Jagannath daily. However, during the ‘Anasara’ period, he wasn’t allowed to have the darshan of Lord Jagannath. 

Feeling sad, he prayed to Lord Jagannath saying he would end his life by plunging into the ocean if he didn’t get a darshan of Him. Pleased with his prayers, Lord Jagannath came in his dreams and directed him to go to the Alarnath temple at Brahmagiri. 

Following the directions, he visited the temple where he could see Lord Jagannath in the idol of Lord Alarnath. An elated Chaitanya Mahaprabhu prostrated before the deity. The stone melted after getting his blissful touch. His body impressions on the stone can still be found today. Since then, Lord Jagannath’s devotees have been visiting Alarnath temple during the 15-day-long ‘Anasara’ period.

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