Lord Krishna and Lord Jagannath are but the different incarnations of Vishnu as described in Jayadeva’s Gitagovinda. Moreover due to strong Vaisnavism influence on the religious spirit of Orissa Lord Krishna is also widely worshipped and festivals like Jhulan Yatra are observed for Him. Between the Mukti-Mandap and the main temple on a raised open stage the Krishna-Radha idols are placed in a decorated swing and whole array of Leelas, Bhajans and festivities goes on till late night in the precinct of Jagannath temple.
Though Vaishnavism prevailed in Orissa much earlier, the cult of Lord Krishna worship was made popular during the 15th century by Sri Chaitanya and his followers. Though temples exclusively dedicated to Krishna are few in Orissa, the representative deity of Lord Jagannath is no other than Krishna known as Madan Mohana, Ramakrishna, Gopala, Gopinatha etc. To the Vaishnavas the festival is known as Jhulan Purnima or the Swing festival which is observed in most of the Vishnu temples and monasteries following the cult. Beginning from the Tenth day of the bright fort-night, it culminates on the Purnima day. The metal images of Radha and Krishna are placed on beautifully decorated swings and nights are spent with singing and dancing in front of the deities. As an important festival of Lord Jagannath, the celebration of the festival in the shrine and monasteries at Puri attracts visitors from far and near. The festival in the temple was first initiated by the Gajapati king Dibyasingha Dev-II (1793-1798).
It is celebrated for seven days from the Shrabana Shukla Dashami up to Pratipada. Madanmohan, the representative image of Jagannath alongwith Laxmi and Vishwadhatri are placed on a swing on the Muktimandap (called Jhulan Mandap). On the fullmoon day i. e. Jhulan Purnima or Gamha Purnima, the birthday of Lord Balabhadra is celebrated in the temple. In Puri, for the pleasure of Lord Jagannath’s utsav vighraha (Madan-mohan ji, this festival is celebrated from Shravana Shukla Dashami (10th Tithi/phase of the Moon of the light fortnight) until Pratipada (1st tithi of the dark), a period of seven days. Sri Madanmohan, Jagannath’s representative deity as well as Laxmi and Vishwadhatri are placed on a decorative wooden swing on Muktimandap (Jhulanmandap). There, worshippers have a chance to swing the Lord, thus entering into His pastimes. On the day of the full moon (Gamha Purnima or Jhulan Purnima), Lord Balabhadra’s appearance day is celebrated, even this is also called as Balabhadra Purnima.
Traditionally, many of the Deities wears various clothing with green in it over this period until the Balaram Purnima or Jhulana Purnima. Again it is a practical festive service that the devotees provide for the Lord. The significance of this time is to find a breeze, as the air is heavy with the humidity of the rains. So the devotees arrange for the pleasure and satisfaction of the deities by placing them on a swing (Jhulan) and creating their own breeze from the motion. It is a most pleasing and satisfying festival, with the swings often highly decorated with forest creepers, Jasmine (Malati) that has newly blossomed in the season, and streamers of garlands. Sometimes they use a fine spray of rose water and direct it toward the Divine couple of Radha and Krishna on their swing.