Puri: Thousands of devotees today witnessed the `Snana Jatra`, the bathing festival of Lord Jagannath here which is celebrated on the occasion of Purnima or full moon day of the Hindu month of Jyeshtha.
Amidsts chanting of slokas, the priests of the 12 century shrine poured 108 pots of holy water fetched from a particular well in the temple premises on Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath.
Earlier in the morning, the deities were brought to the `Snan Mandap` (bathing altar) in a procession. After the bathing rituals, the deities were adorned in `Gaja Vesha` or elephant attire.
As per the rituals, Gajapati king Divyasingha Deb had a darshan of the Lord on the `Snan Mandap` and offered special puja as he is considered as the first sevak (priest) of Lord Jagannath.
It is a belief among devotees that if they have darshan of the trinity on Snan Mandap on the day, they will be cleansed of all sins.
"The Skanda Purana mentions that King Indradyumna arranged this ceremony for the first time when the idols of the deities were first installed in the temple," said Rabindra Nath Mishra, a researcher on the Jagannath cult.
After the bathing rituals, the Lord traditionally fell ill and was kept in a sick room to recuperate in privacy under the care of the Raj Vaidya (royal doctor).
It is said that with the Ayurvedic medication (pnachan) administered by the Raj Vaidya the Lord recovered in a fortnight and resume giving an audience to devotees.
The deities returned to the main temple in a procession in the evening and were placed in a place called `Anasara Pindi`. Subsequently they fall ill and remain in bed for 15 days.
During this period, the Daitapati priests perform certain secret rituals of the deities. The devotees would be able to see the deities a day before the annual car festival.