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Lavish bath before sickroom stay - Rush of devotees to Puri till late evening to witness Snan Purnima

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OUR CORRESPONDENT   |   Published 24.06.13, 12:00 AM

Bhubaneswar, June 23: Jagannath devotees congregated in Puri in large numbers today to witness rituals of Snan Purnima, the prelude to rath yatra, which begins on July 10.

On the auspicious occasion, Lord Jagannath and his siblings, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra, are given a ceremonial bath following which they fall “sick” and are transferred to a secret room known as anasara ghara. Here, they undergo treatment for about 15 days and are out of bounds for devotees.

After the fever abates, the Holy Trinity set out for their aunt’s place — Gundicha temple — in a grand procession, in what is better known as rath yatra.

Today, the larger-than-life idols of the three deities were carried out of the sanctum sanctorum to a snan mandap (bathing altar) on the temple premises and were bathed using 108 pitchers of scented water. Of these, 35 pots are reserved for Lord Jagannath while Lord Balabhadra was bathed with 33, Goddess Subhadra with 22 and Sudarshan 18.

“The festival is observed on the full moon day of the Odia month of Jyestha. This is incidentally the first event of a year when the idols of the three siblings are brought out of the sanctum sanctorum,” said Jagannath culture expert Pandit Surya Narayan Rathasharma.

After the lavish bath got over, Puri king Gajapati Dibyasingh Deb arrived at the temple in a procession. Known as the lord’s first servitor, the king swept the floor where the deities were seated, which is known as the chhera pahanra ritual. The idols were decked up in gaja besa or the elephant avatar.

“The deities would be kept inside the temple’s sick room for about 15 days. As devotees are denied darshan during this period, they offer prayers to Lord Jagannath and his siblings at Allarnath temple in Bramhagiri, around 25km from Puri,” said Rathasharma.

Barricades were erected outside the temple to ensure disciplined entry of devotees, who kept pouring into the holy town till late evening. “Though I have come to Puri on rath yatra earlier, this is the first time that I got to witness the Snan Purnima rituals. It was a grand spectacle,” said Poornima Banerjee, a tourist from Siliguri in Bengal.

Though it was sunny in the morning, the heavens opened up in the afternoon. Puri recorded 3mm rainfall today. No untoward incident was reported.

Security was beefed up ahead of the rituals with 45 platoons of police being pressed into service. The district administration also deployed lifeguards to keep constant vigil at the beach and prevent accidents.

Special rules were enforced for traffic movement considering the rush on the occasion.

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