Jagannath’s Snana Yatra: The Holy bath
By Sib Kumar Das
There is no respite from summer heat. Monsoons are round the corner. Mahaprabhu Sri Jagannath has also ventured out to Snanavedi. ‘Snana Yatra’, the bathing festival of the Lord is observed every year in Sri Mandir on the day of Purnima of Hindu month of Jyestha.
There is a huge difference between our bath and ‘Snana Yatra’ of Sri Jagannath. While bathing we try to be in seclusion, away from sight of others. But our revered deities show a different trait. Sri Jagannath, Sri Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Sri Sudarshan enjoy their bath amidst a crowd, out in the open, on the ‘Snanavedi’.
On the morning of ‘Snana Yatra’ Daitapati servitors take the four deities from the inner sanctum of the temple to ‘Snanavedi’ in ceremonial ‘pahandi’. Regular rituals of deities are conducted on ‘Snanavedi’. Beforehand 108 pots of water collected from a designated well near Sitala temple on premises of Sri Mandir are stored at a place called ‘Abakash Gruha’. This water is used to bath the deities. Thirty five pots of water are poured over Sri Jagannath. Sri Balabhadra bathes with 33 pots of water, while 22 pots of water are emptied on Devi Subhadra and Sri Sudarshan is bathed with 18 pots of water. It is followed by ‘Chhera Pahanra’ or ritualistic cleaning of ‘Snanavedi’ by Gajapati Maharaja of Puri. Then the deities get decorated on ‘Snanavedi’ in ‘Hati Besha’. Sri Jagannath gets into the ‘Hati Besha’ (depicted as elephants). After completion of all rituals on ‘Snavavedi’ all deities return to ‘Anasara Pindi’ a special demarcated place in the inner sanctum of the temple.
Arrival of ‘Snana Yatra’ hints Rath Yatra festivities are drawing near. Yet it brings in a pinch of pain of parting in the minds of several devotees. Deities spend a fortnight in seclusion at ‘Anasara Pindi’. Servitors say it is the time for some secret rituals by daitapatis. During this period devotees are not allowed to have darshan of their beloved lord. A commoner tries to console his or her mind – “Too much of bath in hot and humid climate has taken toll on health of the Lord. He is suffering from fever. He will get well soon and provide darshan on day of ‘Navajouban’ (new vigour).” As per researchers, ‘Anasara’ or ‘Anabasara’ is the period of annual maintenance of these wooden idols.