When: usually Boxing Day (December 26)
Where: Hare Krishna Melbourne
Agenda: Bathing festival, chanting, dancing, feast
Schedule (Melbourne 2022): to be advised.
About: prior to Ratha-yatra, Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra enjoy a bathing festival (snana-yatra).
Snana-yatra is unique because it is the only opportunity we all have to personally bathe the Deities. Other than on this day, only qualified priests are allowed to bathe Them.
According to Skanda Purana, when King Indradyumna installed the original wooden deities of Jagannatha-Baladeva-Subhadra, he arranged a bathing ceremony. This day is the birthday of Lord Jagannatha. So, every year on the Purnima of Jyestha month, it is commemorated by a special bath for Lord Jagannatha.
It is said that a profound scholar and staunch devotee of Lord Ganesh visited Puri during Snana Yatra. The King of Puri asked the scholar to accompany him to see Lord Jagannatha, but the scholar refused under the pretext that he wouldn’t worship any God other than his worshippable deity, Lord Ganesh. Somehow, he was persuaded and brought before the bathing platform. To everyone’s surprise, Lord Jagannatha appeared with an elephantine form that resembled Ganesh. Ever since, during Snana Yatra when the sacred bath is performed, the Deities are dressed like elephants – resembling Ganesh.
In Melbourne, Jagannatha-Baladeva-Subhadra return to the altar following Their bath. Then They are dressed in elephant masks and night clothes ready to retire. Then They are offered a wonderful feast before retiring.
After the bathing ceremony, we like to believe that Jagannatha falls ill. He is taken in procession to His private room, where only a few priests can serve Him. During this time maintenance is performed on the body of the Deity. This is called nava-yauvana. The two-week period when this is carried out is called Anavasara.
Traditionally Ratha-yatra marks the time when Lord Jagannatha returns to public view.