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Snana Yatra (Bathing Ceremony) of
Lord Jagannatha in Puri Dhama
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 posi¬tion. 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.
Alalanatha is also known as Brahmagiri. This place is about 14 miles from Jagannatha Puri and is also on the beach. There is a temple of Lord Jagannatha there and a very large stone slab containing the imprint of Lord Gauranga's transcendental body. The stone melted while the Lord lay their in ecstacy.
When Lord Jagannatha retires after His bathing ceremony for two weeks, Lord Gauranga becomes very unhappy because He can't see Lord Jagannatha. Due to separation from Lord Jagannatha, Shri Gauranga Mahaprabhu gave up all association and went to Alalanatha temple. The Puri devotees came there requesting Lord Gauranga to return because all the devotees were coming from Bengal to see Him. Lord Gauranga would often come here during the fortnight when Lord Jagannatha remained in seclusion before the Ratha Yatra festival.
Shri Snana Yatra Pastimes of Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu in Shri Jagannatha Puri Dhama from Shri Chaitanya Charitamrita by Shrila Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami. Translations and Purport by Shrila Prabhupada:
punarapi nilacale gamana karila
bhakta-gane meliya snana-yatra dekhila
After collecting these books, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu returned to Jagannatha Puri. At that time, the bathing ceremony of Jagannatha was taking place, and He saw it.
anavasare jagannathera na pana darasana
virahe alalanatha karila gamana
When Jagannatha was absent from the temple, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who could not see Him, felt separation and left Jagannatha Puri to go to a place known as Alalanatha.
Alalanatha is also known as Brahmagiri. This place is about fourteen miles from Jagannatha Puri and is also on the beach. There is a temple of Jagannatha there. At the present moment a police station and post office are situated there because so many people come to see the temple.
The word anavasara is used when Shri Jagannathaji cannot be seen in the temple. After the bathing ceremony (snana-yatra), Lord Jagannatha apparently becomes sick. He is therefore removed to His private apartment, where no one can see Him. Actually, during this period renovations are made on the body of the Jagannatha Deity. This is called nava-yauvana. During the Ratha-yatra ceremony, Lord Jagannatha once again comes before the public. Thus for fifteen days after the bathing ceremony, Lord Jagannatha is not visible to any visitors.
bhakta-sane dina kata tahani rahila
gaudera bhakta aise, samacara paila
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu remained for some days at Alalanatha. In the meantime, He received news that all the devotees from Bengal were coming to Jagannatha Puri.
nityananda-sarvabhauma agraha karina
nilacale aila mahaprabhuke la-ina
When the devotees from Bengal arrived at Jagannatha Puri, both Nityananda Prabhu and Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya greatly endeavored to take Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu back to Jagannatha Puri.
virahe vihvala prabhu na jane ratri-dine
hena-kale aila gaudera bhakta-gane
When Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu finally left Alalanatha to return to Jagannatha Puri, He was overwhelmed both day and night due to separation from Jagannatha. His lamentation knew no bounds. During this time, all the devotees from different parts of Bengal, and especially from Navadvipa, arrived in Jagannatha Puri.
sabe mili’ yukti kari’ kirtana arambhila
kirtana-avese prabhura mana sthira haila
After due consideration, all the devotees began chanting the holy name congregationally. Lord Chaitanya’s mind was thus pacified by the ecstasy of the chanting.
Being absolute in all circumstances, Lord Jagannatha’s person, form, picture and kirtana are all identical. Therefore when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu heard the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, He was pacified. Previously, He had been feeling very morose due to separation from Jagannatha. The conclusion is that whenever a kirtana of pure devotees takes place, the Lord is immediately present. By chanting the holy names of the Lord, we associate with the Lord personally.
snana-yatra kabe habe puchila bhattere
bhatta kahe,——tina dina achaye yatrare
When the King asked the Bhattacarya when the bathing ceremony [Snana-yatra] of Lord Jagannatha would take place, the Bhattacarya replied that there were only three days left before the ceremony.
rajare prabodhiya bhatta gela nijalaya
snana-yatra-dine prabhura ananda hridaya
After thus encouraging the King, Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya returned home. On the day of Lord Jagannatha’s bathing ceremony, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was very happy at heart.
snana-yatra dekhi’ prabhura haila bada sukha
isvarera ‘anavasare’ paila bada duhkha
Upon seeing the bathing ceremony of Lord Jagannatha, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu became very happy. But when Lord Jagannatha retired after the ceremony, Lord Chaitanya became very unhappy because He could not see Him.
After the bathing ceremony of Shri Jagannatha, which takes place just a fortnight before the Ratha-yatra ceremony, the body of the Lord Jagannatha Deity is repainted, and this takes just about a fortnight to complete. This period is called Anavasara. There are many who visit the temple to see Lord Jagannatha regularly every day, and for them His retirement after the bathing ceremony is unbearable. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu felt Lord Jagannatha’s absence from the temple very much.
gopi-bhave virahe prabhu vyakula hana
alalanathe gela prabhu sabare chadiya
Due to separation from Lord Jagannatha, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu felt the same great anxiety the gopis feel in separation from Krishna. In this condition He gave up all association and went to Alalanatha.
pache prabhura nikata aila bhakta-gana
gauda haite bhakta aise,——kaila nivedana
The devotees who had followed the Lord came into His presence and requested Him to return to Puri. They submitted that the devotees from Bengal were coming to Purushottama-kshetra.
sarvabhauma nilacale aila prabhu lana
prabhu aila,——raja-thani kahilena giya
In this way Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya brought Lord Chaitanya back to Jagannatha Puri. He then went to King Prataparudra and informed him of the Lord’s arrival.
The word dayita refers to one who has received the mercy of the Lord. Lord Jagannatha has a number of stalwart servants known as dayitas. These servants do not come from very high-caste families (brahmanas, kshatriyas or vaisyas), but because they are engaged in the service of the Lord, they have been elevated to a respected position. Thus they are known as dayitas. These servants of Lord Jagannatha take care of the Lord from the day of the Snana-yatra up to the time the Lord is carried from the throne to the Ratha car. In the Kshetra-mahatmya these dayitas are said to come from the sabaras, a caste that keeps and sells pigs. However, among the dayitas there are also many who come from the brahmana caste. Those dayitas coming from the brahmana families are called dayita-patis, or leaders of the dayitas. The dayita-patis offer food such as sweetmeats to Lord Jagannatha during the anavasara, the resting period after Snana-yatra. They also make the early-morning offering of sweetmeats daily. It is said that during the anavasara Lord Jagannatha suffers from fever and that the dayita-patis offer Him an infusion of drugs represented by fruit juice. It is said that in the beginning Lord Jagannatha was worshiped by the sabaras and was known as the Deity Nila Madhava. Later, when the Deity was established in the temple, the Lord became known as Jagannatha. Because the Deities were taken from the sabaras, all the sabara devotees were elevated to the position of dayitas.