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Snana Purnima – Deva Snana Yatra - Bathing Ceremony at Puri Jagannath Temple

Snana Poornima, or Deba Snan Yatra, is an important ritual before the world famous Rath Yatra at the Puri Jagannath Temple. Snana Purnima 2019 date is June 17. Snan Purnima is bathing ceremony of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra – the deities worshipped at the Jagannath Temple. The ceremony is held in traditional style and grandeur and is a much anticipated ritual.



On the day of the Snana Poornima ceremony, the idols of Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra are escorted out of the Ratnasimhasan from the sanctum sanctorum of the Puri Jagannath temple early in the morning.

Movement of the Deities Out of Sanctum Sanctorum for Snana Purnima

The deities are brought to the Snan Bedi (bathing altar) amidst chanting of mantras and to the sounds of drums, cymbals, bugles and ghantas. This is known as the Dhadi Pahandi procession. This is located in the outer courtyard of the temple complex just behind Meghanda Prachira on the north-eastern side and to the east of Ananda Bazar.

Preparations for the Snana Purnima start on the previous day. A temporary ramp is made using palm trees is set up to place the deities down from their seats.

After the the evening Badasimhara or grand audience, the deities are woken up.

Sridevi is moved to the southern chamber and Bhudevi and Madhava are moved to the storeroom for the bed and beddings.

The priests then carry the four presiding deities - Sudarshana, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Jagannatha - to the temporary ramp. From here they carry the murtis through the hall audience and the hall of dance. From here the deities move to the northern exit and are placed at the Sata Pahacha or the seven steps area.

Here the deities are decorated with floral crowns (tahia). They are also give a tuft made out of durva grass (Kusha).

The order of movement of the deities is the same as the Ratha Yatra - first Sudarshana, followed by Balabhadra, Subhadra and finally Lord Jagannath.

The Bathing Ceremony of Jagannath

The platform for taking bath is decorated with flowers and garlands. A large canopy known as Chandratapa cover the top of the platform.

On the platform, the deities are seated on round stone slabs known as Chaka. The deities are fastened using silken rope to the support at the back.

The priests then chant the Dashavatara Stotra of Jayadeva - This glorifies the various avatars of Lord Vishnu. Ghantuas or traditional music players of metal gongs strike in unison during the ritual.

The Water Used in Snana Purnima

The water for bathing the deities is brought from the well inside the Jagannath Temple known as suna kua or the golden well close to the northern entrance of the temple complex next to the Sitala Temple

A total of 108 pitchers of aromatic and herbal water are used to bath the deities. 35 pitchers of water are poured on Jagannatha, 33 on Balabhadra, 22 on Subhadra and 18 on Sudarshana.

The water in each pot is mixed with saffron, camphor, sandalwood paste, herbs and fragrant substances.

Each pot is wrapped in a new cloth and coconut is used to cover the mouth of the pitcher.

When the water is being collected and prepared, daily routine temple rituals are performed on the platform. Offerings are performed here and not in the main sanctum on the day. After the rituals and puja, the platform is washed and cleaned.

A string of cloth is tied in front of the platform to make sure no one watches the bathing of deities.

The 108 water pots are brought to the platform in a grand procession and kept near the deities. The procession of the water pots include trumpets, gongs and small drums. Priests hold ceremonial umbrellas.

Garabadu Sevakas then cover the faces of the deities with long cloth. The cloth covers the top portion of head, face and below portion of the jaw.

The water for the four deities are separated and the priests begin the rituals. A silver bowl is placed in front of each deity by Mekapa priests. The Garabadu priests pour the water from pitcher in the silver bowl and the deities are bathed with this water by the Mekapa priests.

After the ritual bathing, the Gajapati (King) or Mudirasta ceremonially sweeps the area in front of the deities.

Hathi Besha during Snana Purnima

After the ritual, messengers go to Gopala Teertha Matha and Raghaba Dasa Matha to get the components of elephant appearance or Hathi Besha.

After the bathing ceremony the deities are dressed in Sada Besha and in the afternoon they are dressed as Hathi Besha – in the form of Lord Ganesha.

After a public Bhog (Prasad) on the platform itself, the deities appear in the evening for Sahanamela – public viewing.

The End of Snana Purnima Ritual

The return journey from the Snana Purnima platform is known as Dakshinamurti Bandapana. The deities face southwards and are offered pujas, rituals and prayers using ceremonial lamps, flowers and mantras.

The deities are again decorated with flowers, grass tufts, garlands and tahia - the ornamental crown.

The deities move in a special manner known as Goti Pahandi. The journey of one deity is completed before the journey of the next one begins. They do not move together or one after the other. First Sudarshana completes the journey, followed by Balabhadra and Subhadra. The last journey is of Jagannatha.

Fireworks, festive music, drums and trumpets are part of Goti Pahandi of Snana Purnima.

The deities stop before the Garuda Stambha facing south. Here Vibhishana, the younger brother of Ravana, offers greetings with lamps and flowers. This is known as Bibhisana Bandapana.

The deities now turn west and move towards the Sanctum Sanctorum.

The deities do not sit on the usual seats on Ratna Bedi in the main sanctum sanctorum but they are placed in the open area just before the last door in the inner sanctum sanctorum. They will return to the main sanctum only after the completion of the Rath Yatra. 

Legend has it that after the ritualistic bath, the deities get fever and appear re-energized after 15 days of solitary confinement.