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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Holy Days of the Year > Holy Days > The Snana Yatra of Lord Jagannatha

Title: The Snana Yatra of Lord Jagannatha

User: Swami Gaurangapada Date: 2006-06-10 16:28:03


Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! A special bath of Lord Jagannatha takes place on the Purnima of Jyestha month (Devasnan Purnima), to commemorate the appearance day of Lord Jagannath.


Photos of the Snana Yatra: ""


According to Skanda Purana when Raja Indradyumna installed the wooden

deities he arranged this bathing ceremony. This day considered to be the

birth-day of Lord Jagannath. Held in the full-moon day of the month of

Jyestha this festival is also simultaneously held in all other important

Puri, it attracts thousands of visitors and pilgrims from all over the



á'Niladri Mohadaya', a religious text written in Orissan (Oriya) records the

rituals of the festival. Shriharsa in his 'naisadhiya Charita' (XV.89) also

refers to this festival of Purushottama. This bathing ceremony has a

speciality. As this festival does not find mention in the early religious

texts, it is believed to be a tribal ceremony. Lord.Jagannath in His early

form was being worshipped as Nilamadhava by a Savara chief called Viswabasu.


The story is nicely told in the drama Jagannath Priyan natakam. Till now it

is the Daitas and Savars (tribals) who have the exclusive right to conduct

the festival. The tribals called Saoras (of southern Orissa) still perform a

rite to bath their Deities ceremonially on the last day of the month of

Jyestha. For this they collect water from remote Jungles where it remains

untouched even by the shadow of the animals.


áOn the previous 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 procession to the Snana-vedi (Bathing pandal). This special pandal in the temple precinct of Puri is called Snana Mandap. It is at such a height that visitors standing outside the temple also gate a

glimpse of the Deities.


On the fourteenth day (Chaturdashi - the day before the bathing - Purnima)

when the Deities are taken out in procession, the whole process is called

Pahandi or Pahandi vijay. Scholars have given different interpretations of

the term ('Pahandi'). Some opine that it has been derived from the term

'Praspanda' meaning movement. Some others are inclined to interpret it as

derivation from Pandya vijaya.


For the festival the the Snana Vedi (bathing platform) is well decorated

with traditional paintings of trees and gardens. Flags and toranas (arches

strung with mango leaves) are also put up. The Deities are profusely

decorated with flowers. All kinds of perfumes such as Dhupa (incense), Aguru

(oils) etc. are then offered. As the 'Pahandi' of the Deities takes place to

the accompaniment of music and beating of various indigenous drums.

Thousands of devotees jostle and crave for a look at the Deities in



In Puri the bathing procedure is as follows: After Mangala Arati, the Suaras

and Mahasuaras go in a ceremonial procession to fetch water from Suna Kua

(Golden well) in one hundred and thirty, vessels of copper and gold. All of

them cover their mouths with a piece of cloth so as not to contaminate it

even with their breath. Then all the vessels filled with water are preserved

in the Bhoga Mandap. The Palla pandas (a class of Brahmin priests) then

purify the water with Haridra (turmeric), Java (whole rice), Benachera,

Chandan, Aguru, flowers, perfumes and medicinal herbs.


áThe bathing festivalá takes place during the morning hours of the purnima

tithi. The filled vessels are carried from Bhoga Mandap to the Snana Vedi by

the Suaras in a long single-line procession. This ritual is called

'Jaladhibasa' (Jala - water, abhishek - bath).


Prior to the bathing ceremony Jagannath, Baladeva and is Subhadra, covered

in silken cloth and then smeared with red powder, are taken in procession to

a platform which is specially decorated and purified with water and incense.

One hundred and eight gold vessels are filled with water taken from a

special well containing waters from all the holy tirthas. Abhiseka is

performed with this water, accompanied by the chanting of vedic (Pavamana

Sukta) mantras, kirtana and blowing of conch shells.


Due to the amount of bathing liquids that are offered to cool the Lord's

transcendental body at this time, bear in mind that this is the hottest time

in India just prior to the refreshing monsoon rains, His painted form takes

a bit of a wash-out. The colouration of the Deity's faces are painted on

with natural earthly mineral paints not modern oil based paints, so when

water is applied to cool Their forms it also has the effect of washing away

the features of he former painting. As usual the Lord has a plan to make

everything go smoothly. To bridge the episode of His bathing and the period

that He comes out to bless everyone for Rathyatra He organized some special pastimes by which he devotees can serve Him and remember His wonderful forms.


So to keep a wonderful mood of seeing the Lord in an uplifting manner the

Lord arranged for the Hati Vesha festival where Lord Jagannatha and Lord

Balaram then puts on the elephant dress, Hati Vesha, and Lady Subhadra wears a lotus flower vesha.



The original story is told in several different ways, some call Hati snan

(elephant bath) some call Ganesh abhishek as they identify the following

story as being the original cause of the Lord to wear this elephant vesh for

His devotee:áá It is said that a staunch devotee of Lord Ganesh and himself

a profound scholar visited Puri during Snana Yatra.á 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 his Ishthadevata Ganesh. Some how he was persuaded and brought before the Snana vedi.á To the utter surprise of all, Lord Jagannath appeared with an elephantine form that resembled as Ganesh. Since then during Snana Yatra when the sacred bath is performed, the Deities are dressed like like elephants - resembling Ganesh. Various other legends are also told and reasons assigned explaining the Ganesh besa (vesha).


During the sacred bath the colours painted on the images generally fade.

seeing the wooden deities in discolour devotees may not have the appropriate devotional attitude and in fact may feel sinful repugnance. For this reason, the images are immediately dressed in the Hati vesha (besa) in which they remain mostly covered.


After the Snana Yatra, the Deities are kept away from public view for

fifteen days and during all these days the daily rites of the temple remain

suspended. As Jagannatha himself instructed, after this ceremony, he is not

seen for a fortnight. The Deities are kept on a special "sick room" called

the Ratan vedi inside the temple. This period is called 'Anabasara kala'

meaning improper time for worship. It has been said earlier that the Deities

are discoloured as a result of the sacred bath - some say look a bit off

colour........ During these fifteen days the Dayitas (descendants of

Viswavasu, the Savara) repaint and restore the Deities and Jagannath's fine

decorations. The period of colouring and decorating the Deities is divided

into seven short periods, each of two days duration, and a short period of

one day set apart to give finishing touches.á Thus the period covers the

whole fortnight. On the 16th day the Deities in their new forms after

renovation become ready for the public view - darshan. The festival of the

first appearance of the Lord Jagannath to his devotees is called Netrotsava

(festival for the eyes) or Nava Yauvanotsava (festival of the ever new

youth). According to priests of the Jagannath temple 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.


The Shilpa Shastras and Agamas testify that the Deities become suitable for

worship only after the performance of the rite of 'Chakshyu Unmilana'

(Opening of the eyes). During 'Anabasara', the Daitas offer to the Deities

only fruits and water mixed with cheese, andá and Dasa mula medicines to

cure his fever.. In a devotional mood the devotees accept that due to all

the bathing the Lord becomes transcendentally poorly, and therefore needs to take rest. Like human beings they are considered to have fallen ill and are

treated by the Raj Vaidya or the King's physician with specific medicines



The temple-festivals which are held in a bigger and elaborate scale in

the important shrines of Puri and Bhubaneswar are also held simultaneously

in all other small shrines of the respective Deities, though in modest

scales. Likewise the Snana Yatra is held in many other temples of Orissa,

and now all over the world.


Other deities may also receive abhiseka on this day. One should perform puja

and bathe the Deities with water or panca gavya and pancamrta while chanting the vedic mantras like purusa sukta.


Snana-yatra or the Lord Jagannatha's bathing festival which takes place 14 days before Shri Ratha Yatra Festival. During the 14 days period, the temple remains closed for Darshana on the plea that Jagannatha Swami has caught a cold. It also enables the Deities to be repainted, or renewed. Still others say that the reason that Lord Jagannatha feigns sickness is to take a break from the thousands and thousands of people who visit Shri Puri Dhama everyday, most of who are asking, "Lord Jagannatha, please fulfill my desires, give me this, give me that." So Lord takes it easy for a couples of weeks before the Ratha Yatra, and along with His brother and sister They peacefully enjoy fine sweet preparations and nectar drinks made cream, molasses and invigorating herbs.


Snana Yatra is when the Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra Deities are bathed. Snana means "bathing." This is done on Jyestha Purnima. The main Deities along with Sudarshana disc are bought to the snana mandapa (a platform in front of the temple). Around mid-day 108 pots of water are poured on the Deities from a sacred well which is dear to the goddess

Sitala. An emissary of the king of Orissa ceremonially sweeps the platform. Then elephant-head masks are put on the Deities. This is their Ganesh vesha. The Deities are then offered cooked food and an arati is perform. This is the only time in a year that the public can see a food offering to the Deities. The Deities go back into the temple in a procession and stay in seclusion for 15 days. The Deities are placed in a semi-reclining position in the hallway between the inner and outer sanctum.


The word Anavasara is used when Shri Jagannathaji cannot be seen in the temple. After the bathing ceremony. Lord Jagannatha is supposed to become sick. He is therefore removed to His private chambers. During the Anavasara festival, it is said that Lord Jagannatha suffers from fever; and is offered an infusion of drugs represented by fruit juice. The dayita servants take care of Lord Jagannatha from the time of Snana Yatra up to the time the Lord is carried from His throne to the Ratha Yatra carts. They sleep and stay with the Deities.


This 15 day resting and renovation period is also called Nibhrita, in honor of the solitary place where the Supreme goddess of fortune lives. Lord Jagannatha lives there in seclusion enjoying svakiya rasa in the company of His wife, Lakshmi. Then He asks Her permission lo leave and comes out for His Rathayatra chariot festival.


The body of Lord Jagannatha having been washed needs repainting. This is known as Anga-Raga. This is done by the daityas. It takes about two weeks to complete the painting of Lord Jagannatha's body. The renovation festival is also called Nava-Yauvana, which indicates that the Jagannatha Deity is being fully restored to youth.


Netrotsava (Reappearance) is when after two weeks absence, Lord Jagannatha reappears. At sunrise, fifteen days after the bathing ceremony the Deities have recovered from their cold and are placed in front of the inner sanctum in a reclining posiČtion. They have been totally repainted, except their eyes. At this time the eyes of the Deities are painted by their respective priests and the normal worship in the temple is resumed, except the Deities are still reclining.