Snana Yatra Special
After waking up, we brush our teeth, take a shower followed by breakfast, then dress up, have our lunch, rest and so on. He also follows the same routine much like us. However, he is known as the Lord of the Universe- Lord Jagannath, a part and parcel of every Odia life. He is like a family member with whom Odias share their pain and pleasure.
No wonder, like every other human being, he also catches a fever if he takes a prolonged cold bath and needs rest to recuperate.
Today is that day of the Srimandir calendar when Lord Jagannath, along with his siblings, will take a divine shower on Snana Mandap, and to recover from ensued fever, he will take a fortnight-long rest.
Then what about the millions of devotees who swarm Srimandir to have His ‘darshan’ around the year? What are the alternatives for them during this break, known as Anasara, to convey their prayers and put forth the worries of life?
Sunday POST takes a look at what the believers do during annual Anasara rituals.
Representative deities at Srimandir
According to Srimandir tradition, the worship of ‘Patti Dian’ begins as part of the Anasara ritual when the presiding deities of the temple undergo medication at the Anasara Gruha (recovering room) after they catch a fever soon after the completion of Debasnana Purnima rituals.
Lord Srianantanarayana is worshipped as ‘Patti Dian’ in place of Lord Jagannath, while Lord Ananta Basudev and Goddess Bhubaneswari replace Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra. It is believed that having a darshan of ‘Patti Dian’ fetches a devotee the same amount of virtue during Anasara that he would ordinarily earn on other days of the year by catching a sight of the Trinity inside Srimandir.
As per the ‘Patti Dian’, it is crafted by a group of skilled artisans who apply organic colours to tusser fabric. They follow the Patta Chitra art form of Odisha to draw the images of the representative deities.
Many devotees yearn to get a glimpse of this magnificent form of the deities, as this happens once a year.
The ‘Patti Dian’ is worshipped in the sanctum sanctorum until the return of the Trinity from their nine-day stay to their aunt’s house after the Bahuda Yatra.
Lord Jagannath and Alarnath
Located at Brahmagiri, not far from Puri, Alarnath Temple has been considered the temporary abode of Lord Jagannath during the Anasara period.
Though it is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Odisha, it gets busy only after the Snana Yatra, when devotees are not allowed a ‘darshan’ of the wooden idols of the Trinity.
Visiting the Alarnath shrine during this period is considered significant for devotees, as it is believed that the devotees are blessed with divine grace after witnessing Lord Alarnath.
The Alarnath Temple is mentioned in a number of legends. According to one, the Pandavas constructed the temple following their victory in the Mahabharata War. Another claims that Lord Vishnu himself erected the shrine.
The most well-known myth surrounding the temple, however, is related to Sri Chaitanya, also known as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a saint from the 16th century who is revered as the avatar of Lord Krishna.
He also had a strong devotion towards Jagannath, and he frequently visited Srimandir to see the gods.
On one such occasion, during the Anasara period, he happened to visit Puri and couldn’t see the wooden idols.
That made him so upset that he decided to end his life by jumping into the ocean.
It was then that Lord Jagannath asked him in his dream to go to Brahmagiri and visit the Alarnath Temple to experience His presence. At Alarnath Temple, Chaitanya spent the entire Anasara period worshipping the deity after sensing his existence.
The shrine also has an idol of Chaitanya known as Sadhabhuja, or six-armed, signifying his immersion with both Lord Krishna and Lord Rama. In front of the god, a stone slab shows imprints of Chaitanya’s body. The stone beneath him is said to have melted when he initially prostrated himself before Lord Alarnath as a result of his divine energy.
Since that time, Lord Jagannath has been thought of as having temporarily resided in the Alarnath Temple during the Anasara period.
“Holiness penetrates the atmosphere as soon as one enters the temple grounds. Lord Jagannath’s celestial aura fills the area, making it seem as though he is physically present. A hallowed atmosphere is created in the temple by lovely ornaments, flowers, and incense, which uplifts the spirit. We make our modest offerings of flowers, fruits, and prasad in the presence of Lord Jagannath, knowing that they are graciously welcomed. We are also confident that God is hearing and answering our prayers,” according to fervent devotee Sasmita Dhir.
During this period, the temple servitors offer holy rice porridge, known as ‘Kheer’ in the local tongue, to the Lord. During the Anasara period of every year, thousands of devotees visit Alarnath temple to get the blessings of Lord Alarnath and to taste a pot of the famous holy ‘Kheer’, she added.
Culture expert Bhaskar Mishra explained the significance of the Alarnath Tempe, saying, “It is well known that Alarnath is thought to be a manifestation of Lord Vishnu and is worshipped in Brahmagiri. This long-standing tradition involves the deities Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra being shifted to Anasara Gruha for treatment after the Snana Purnima festival, during which they do not appear before devotees. Consequently, the devotees worship the deity at the Alarnath temple instead.”
Mishra added, referring to the tale surrounding Chaitanya: “People used to worship the deity in Alarnath before Chaitanya Prabhu arrived there. Chaitanya’s trip to Alarnath took place in the 16th century while the temple has been around since the 12th.”
He had his reservations about the myth surrounding Chaitanya.
“There might be written accounts about the legend. However, it remains uncertain whether this is true or not. Chaitanya is said to have visited the place with Rairaman and his followers, performing satsangs (spiritual discourses) and visiting numerous other locations. These details are documented in various texts, serving as evidence for Chaitanya’s visit to Alarnath for the worship of Jagannath, as the rituals and sevayats (servitors) were similar to those in the Jagannath Temple of Puri,” Mishra wrapped up.
A reality check
Prior to the divine shower, the Trinity is taken in procession to a platform that 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 water from all the holy tirthas. Due to the amount of water used to cool the Lord’s transcendental body, His painted form takes a bit of a washout. As organic colour is used for painting the wooden idols, when water is applied, it washes away some features of the former painting. To cover the discoloured image after Snana Yatra, the idols are immediately adorned with Hati Besha, in which they remain mostly covered. After this, the deities are not seen for a fortnight, during which they are kept in a special ‘sick room’ inside Srimandir. This period is called ‘Anabasara kala’ or an improper time for worship. During these fifteen days, expert servitors 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. On the 16th day, the deities, in their new forms after renovation, become ready for public view. The festival of the first appearance of Lord Jagannath to his devotees is called Netrotsava (festival for the eyes) or Nava Yauvanotsava (festival of the ever-new youth). According to Srimandir priests, a devotee washes away all his sins if he gets a glimpse of the Lord on this day.