Debasnana Purnima or Snana Yatra is exclusively a festival of Lord Jagannath and is said to be one of the oldest. According to Skanda Purana when Raja Indradyumna installed the wooden deities he arranged this bathing ceremony. This day is considered to be the birth-day of Lord Jagannath. Held in the full-moon day of the month of Jyestha this festival is also simultaneously held in all other imprortant shrines of Odisha. However, the festival being most elaborate and important at Puri, it attracts thousands of visitors and piligrims from all over the country.
‘Niladri Mohadaya’, a religious text written in Odisha records the rituals of the festival. Sriharsa in his ‘naisadhiya Charita’ (XV. 89) also refers to this festival of Purusottama. This bathing ceremony has a speciality. As this festival does not find mention in the early religious texts, it is believed to be a tribal ceremony which later crept into the Hindu rites. Jagannath in its early form was being worshipped as Nilamadhaba by a Savara chief called Viswabasu. Till now it is the Daitas and Savaras (tribals) who have the exclusive right to conduct the festival. The tribals called Saoras (of southern Odisha) still perform a rite to bath their deities ceremonially on the last day of the month of Jyestha. For this they collect water from remote jungles where it remains untouched even by the shadow of the animals. Most probably when Jagannath was a Savara God, this festival of the Savaras who tended Him was accepted by the Hindus.
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