On the previous day of Snana Yatra the images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra along with the image of Sudarshana are ceremonially brought out from the sanctum in a procession to the Snana-vedi (Bathing pandal). This special pandal in the temple precinct of Puri is called Snana Mandap. It is at such a height that visitors standing outside the temple also gate a glimpse of the Deities.
On the fourteenth day (Chaturdashi – the day before the bathing – Purnima) when the Deities are taken out in procession, the whole process is called Pahandi or Pahandi vijay. Scholars have given different interpretations of the term (‘Pahandi’). Some opine that it has been derived from the term ‘Praspanda’ meaning movement. Some others are inclined to interpret it as derivation from Pandya vijaya.
For the festival the the Snana Vedi (bathing platform) is well decorated with traditional paintings of trees and gardens. Flags and toranas (arches strung with mango leaves) are also put up. The Deities are profusely decorated with flowers. All kinds of perfumes such as Dhupa (incense), Aguru (oils) etc. are then offered. As the ‘Pahandi’ of the Deities takes place to the accompaniment of music and beating of various indigenous drums. Thousands of devotees jostle and crave for a look at the Deities in procession.
In Puri the bathing procedure is as follows: After Mangala Arati, the Suaras and Mahasuaras go in a ceremonial procession to fetch water from Suna Kua (Golden well) in one hundred and thirty, vessels of copper and gold. All of them cover their mouths with a piece of cloth so as not to contaminate it even with their breath. Then all the vessels filled with water are preserved in the Bhoga Mandap. The Palla pandas (a class of Brahmin priests) then purify the water with Haridra (turmeric), Java (whole rice), Benachera, Chandan, Aguru, flowers, perfumes and medicinal herbs.
The bathing festival takes place during the morning hours of the purnima tithi. The filled vessels are carried from Bhoga Mandap to the Snana Vedi by the Suaras in a long single-line procession. This ritual is called ‘Jaladhibasa’ (Jala – water, abhishek – bath).
Prior to the bathing ceremony Jagannath, Baladeva and is Subhadra, covered in silken cloth and then smeared with red powder, are taken in procession to a platform which 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 waters from all the holy tirthas. Abhiseka is performed with this water, accompanied by the chanting of vedic (Pavamana Sukta) mantras, kirtana and blowing of conch shells.
Due to the amount of bathing liquids that are offered to cool the Lord’s transcendental body at this time, bear in mind that this is the hottest time in India just prior to the refreshing monsoon rains, His painted form takes a bit of a wash-out. The colouration of the Deity’s faces are painted on with natural earthly mineral paints not modern oil based paints, so when water is applied to cool Their forms it also has the effect of washing away the features of he former painting. As usual the Lord has a plan to make everything go smoothly. To bridge the episode of His bathing and the period that He comes out to bless everyone for Rathyatra He organized some special pastimes by which he devotees can serve Him and remember His wonderful forms.
So to keep a wonderful mood of seeing the Lord in an uplifting manner the Lord arranged for the Hati Vesha festival where Lord Jagannatha and Lord Balaram then puts on the elephant dress, Hati Vesha, and Lady Subhadra wears a lotus flower vesha.