Deva-Snana Purnima: Celebrating Shri Jagannatha’s Birthday


Gajanana Besha on Snana Purnima at Shri Jagannatha Mandira, Houston

HOUSTON: Deva Snana Purnima is celebrated on the full-moon day (Purnima) of the month of Jyestha month of the Indian calendar. Odias, the people from the eastern coastal state of Odisha in India, mark this day as the birthday of Shri Jagannatha and observe the day with pomp and gaiety. Snana Purnima, also known as Snana Jatra is one of the annual occasions when the deities, Balabhadra, Subhadra and Jagannatha leave their abode, the garba-griha or the sanctum sanctorum of the Shri Jagannatha Temple and come out for a ceremonial bath, snana means bath. The bathing and ablution are carried out with water from the well within the precincts of the Shri Mandira in Puri.

Snana Purnima showcases the coming together of spirituality and ritualistic details, where the Lord of the Universe, Jagannatha is depicted in a ‘humanized’ way, emphasizing a divinity that is easily approachable and relatable. But again the ablutions have a code of conduct as enshrined in “Niladri Mohadaya”, that are followed religiously, like exactly 108 pitchers of water are used for the ceremonial bathing. The ceremonial bathing and Besha is performed at Snana Mandapa. This Mandapa is designed in such a way that even people outside the temple can enjoy the ceremony.

Akshaya Tritya, which was celebrated in the month of April, marked the beginning of the grand annual festival of Ratha Jatra, with the commencement of construction of the three majestic wooden Ratha – chariots. Snana Purnima is the final leg towards Ratha Jatra build-up. As following the ablutions, the three beloved deities, are dressed up in Gajanana or Ganesha Besha and for the subsequent period of 15 days, known as the ‘Anasara’, the deities have a temporary disappearance from the public domain. In local folklore, it is said that the deities are not keeping well. During this phase of 15-days following Snana Purnima, the bathed wooden idols are repainted and redecorated. At the end of this ‘Anasara’ period the deities emerge for public darshan just a day before the famous Ratha Jatra.

Snana Purnima at Snana Mandapa, Puri, Odisha

Snana Purnima at Snana Mandapa, Puri, Odisha

We in the Houston Odia community like our brethren worldwide have geared up the forth-coming Ratha-Jatra. At the serene environs of Shri Jagannatha Mandira – Houston, 3101 Fuqua St., Houston,TX Snana Purnima was observed on June 24. The resident Odia community celebrated this pious day with prayer and offerings to Shri Jagannatha. After the ceremonial bath, snana, the three deities were adorned with the traditional Gajanana Besha. This was followed by an Odia-style lunch-prasad.

The Houston Odia community led by Orissa Culture Center (OCC) in collaboration with Shri Sitaram Foundation will celebrate Houston’s eleventh Jagannatha Ratha-Jatra on July 14 at the India House, 8888 W Bellfort Blvd., Houston, TX. This daylong event is supported by a generous grant from City of Houston Art Alliance. Emphasizing the philosophy of Univeralism, 2018 Jagannatha Ratha-Jatra in Houston will proudly host a rich mix of dance forms including Mariachi, Latin American Folk Dance and Indian Classical Dance. We cordially solicit the participation of people and communities from all cultures, beliefs and walks of life to join us in this spiritual and devotional congregation.

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