Amid tight security and imposition of a ban on touching the deities, the ceremonial bathing ritual of Lord Jagannath was celebrated at the Jagannath temple here in the presence of thousands of people. The ‘Snana Jatra’ ceremony of the three deities – Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra – was witnessed by people, drawn from across the state and outside, at the ‘Snana Mandap’ (bathing altar) as priests poured 108 pitchers of sacred water on them. The bathing ritual is celebrated as a run-up to the annual ‘Rath Jatra’ (car festival) of Lord Jagannath. The day, the full-moon day of the month of ‘Jyestha’, is considered to be the birthday of Lord Jagannath. The legend from the Skanda Purana says that King Indradyumna, who installed the wooden deities of the Lords, bathed the deities before they were worshipped in the 12th century shrine. The Lord’s bathing also indicates arrival of monsoon in Odisha.
Earlier in the morning, the deities along with the image of ‘Sudarshana’ were taken out from the sanctum sanatorium in a procession to the bathing altar, located in the temple premises. After the bathing ritual, the deities were attired with ‘Gajanana Vesha’ (elephant dress). Lord Jagannath takes the elephant attire to please his Maharastrian devotees who worship Lord Ganesh.
Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) has made elaborate arrangement for the festival with a decision not to allow any person, except the servitors on duty, to touch the deities when they come out of the main temple as per the Orissa High Court direction. When a section of priests have been demanding to touch the deities during the festival, SJTA Chief Pradeep Kumar Jena said that no unauthorised person was allowed to touch the deities except the servitors on duty. “We are implementing High Court order,” Jena said.
Around 100 CCTV cameras have been installed to monitor the bathing ritual of the deities. An arrangement has been made for public viewing of the ritual from behind barricades till late in the night. As many as 45 platoons (one platoon comprise 30 personnel) of jawans and a large number of policemen were deployed for the safety and security of pilgrims and the deities. Police patrolling has been beefed up with special focus on regulation of vehicular traffic, said Sarthak Sarangi, Superintendent of Police, Puri.