Snana Yatra (Lord Jagannath’s bathing ceremony) is the appearance day of Lord Jagannath. The festival is celebrated on the full – moon day (Purnima) of Jyestha. Lord Jagannath is non different from Krishna. On the Snana Yatra day, the deities are carried out of the temple just after sunrise.
First Balaram, then Sudarshan cakra, Subhadra, and finally Jagannath are carried in procession called pahandi, which means “jumping” or “swaying step by step.” Strong ropes are tied around the heavy murtis, and are carried one at a time to the snana vedi. The deities are placed under a colourful canopy and are bathed with 108 golden water pots filled with cool sandal – scented water. This ceremony, called abhiseka, is meant to refresh their Lordships from the heat of the summer sun.
After the Snana Yatra, the deities are kept away from public view for 15 days. Lord Jagannatha’s pastimes are such that after snana-yatra, Jagannatha, Balarama and Subhadra become “sick”, and, so, must take “medicines” and “take rest” until they become “rejuvenated” enough to go for Ratha-yatra. When they are “sick”, they are offered bhoga containing medicinal herbs without the usual offerings.
The deities are kept in a special “sick room” called the Ratan vedi inside the temple. This period is called ‘Anabasara kala’ meaning improper time for worship. During these 15 days the Daitas (descendants of Viswavasu, the Savara) repaint and restore the deities. 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. 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.
20th June was snana-yatra of Lord Jagannath.
By Purushottam Kumar