Pradeep Pattanayak

Srimandir, the abode of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra, is unique for more reasons than one. This grand temple is also known for the rituals and festivals observed all throughout the year. 

Even though more than 56 festivals are observed in Srimandir, there are 12 important ones. Out of these important festivals, Deva Snana Purnima or Snana Yatra is one of them. 

This festival assumes importance as it is believed to be the birthday of Lord Jagannath. This festival falls on the full moon day of the month of Jyestha. 

This is the first festival when Lord Jagannath and his siblings are brought out of the sanctum sanctorum. 

On this occasion, 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. 

The Lord & The RITUALS

On the bathing altar, certain rituals like Mangalarpana, Mangala Alati, Tadaplagi Niti, Adharapocha, Abakasa, Surya Puja and Dwarapala Puja are performed. Then the main part of the festival which signifies the name of the festival is performed. ‘Snana’ means bath. The deities are bathed with 108 pitchers of fragrant divine water brought from ‘Suna Kua’ or 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. 

To bring water from the golden well, specific pots are used. These pots 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. As per the tradition practised for long, they cover their mouths with a piece of cloth so as not to contaminate the water even with their breath. 

Atop the ‘Snana Bedi’, the deities are given a ceremonial bath with 108 pots of purified water.  As per the tradition, 35 pots of water are used for the bathing of 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. 

Thereafter, the ‘Hati Besha’, also known as ‘Gajanana Besha’, is conducted. 

In the next ritual, a special ‘Bhog’ is offered to the deities. Then, the devotees are allowed to have a darshan of the deities as the latter appear for ‘Sahana Mela’. The bathing altar is at such a height that the devotees can get a clear view of the deities on the altar standing on the Grand Road, outside the temple premises. Thousands of devotees dot the Grand Road to have a glimpse of the deities. A darshan of the deities on the bathing altar is believed to cleanse one of all sins. 

According to the Skanda Purana, King Indradyumna, who installed the deities in the Srimandir, arranged this bathing ceremony.

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