Connecting to the Roots – Odia Festivals
Twelve months fall short for more than thirteen festivals that are celebrated in the state. Odisha, India’s best kept secret, indeed hides a rich culture and tradition. The whole year is filled with a grand gala of events embellished with merrymaking and savoury dishes. Few of the festivities satisfy the scientific reasonings, while some others are purely based on beliefs, and many of them emancipate from the cliched ideologies of society. Let us recapitulate ten such ceremonies that connect us to the roots of our culture and should never be forgotten.
1. Khudurukuni Osha
The Odia festivals that celebrates the bond between brother and sister, revolves around a girl named “Tapoi” who worshipped Goddess Mangala with the minimal offerings she could afford. She belonged to a family of traders, and after her brothers went for trading, she was ill-treated by her sisters-in-law, except the youngest one. Dwindling in hassle, in tatters, amidst the forest filled with wild creatures, the lonely girl prayed to Maa Mangala for the safe return of her brothers, who treated her like a princess. On returning from business her brothers avenged the culprits by cutting their noses and rewarded only her youngest sister-in-law.
Since that time women have fasted, decorated the deity of Maa Mangala and performed various rituals for the well-being of their brothers on the Sundays of Bhadraba (August-September), after the Gahma Purnima (Full moon day of Shravana).
2. Pana Sankranti
The new year of the Odia calendar begins on this day marking the beginning of summer. It is also known as Mesa Sankranti or Maha Vishubha Sankranti celebrated in the month of Baisakh (April-May). A special sweet drink is made on this auspicious occasion with wood apple (Bela in odia) as the hero and other fruits, pepper, coconut gratings etc. seasoned lusciously. This reflects the benevolence of Odias as Pana, the energy drink is prepared in every house and distributed to neighbors, acquaintances and people nearby, in order to pacify the thirst at the onset of summer.
3. Chitalagi Amavasya
On the new moon day of Shravan ( July-August) month, Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra are decorated with golden “Chita” consisting of rubies, emeralds and other precious stones. The Trinity is offered “Chitou Pitha”, which is also made in every household in Odisha.
According to a belief, the girls in farmers’ homes offer “Chitou Pitha” to snails in the farmlands, and chant a prayer, asking them not to hurt the feet of their brothers and fathers.
4. Bata Osha
A day in the month of Pousha ( December-January ), in which women worship Lord Yama, the God of Death and Dharma, to protect their children and husbands whenever they travel. Fasting and rituals of sweeping the road are performed to please the Lord.
5. Dhanu Sankranti
The significance of Dhanu Sankranti lies in celebrating the toil and harvest of farmers, after the gathering phase. A special sweet dish, made up of flattened rice or puffed rice, sugar syrup and other dry fruits is offered to Lord Jagannath on this day.
World’s largest open-air theatre in Bargarh, holding the Guiness Book of World Records, Dhanu Yatra is an 11-day long enactment of the tale of victory over Krishna’s evil uncle Kansa, held during this period, in the month of Pousha.
6. Kartika Purnima
“Aa ka ma boi, pana gua thoi, pana gua tora, masaka dharma mora”, the song that every odia sings on Kartika Purnima, while sailing mini boats in water bodies to commemorate the glory of ancestral maritime trade.
This festivals is roistered after a “no non-veg” kartika month in Odisha. Apart from the belief in acquiring dharma by not killing and eating animals, there is a scientific reason behind the ritual. Kartika month is the period of transition from rainy to winter season, in which fish suffer from chickenpox and the digestion power of humans is weak. So, humans take more days to digest non-veg than vegetarian food. Also, during this phase the poultry animals and goats undergo the process of reproduction. Consumption of non-veg in this breeding season might transmit diseases into the human body.
7. Manabasa Gurubaar
On Thursdays of the month of Margashira (November-December), the deity of Goddess Laxmi is decorated with flowers and the house with alpana designs, to welcome the Goddess of wealth and bless the family with prosperity.
This month signifies the breaking of the age-old stereotype of untouchability, as Goddess Laxmi is believed to travel to every household irrespective of caste and creed. A book known as Laxmi Purana, which retells the story of Laxmi breaking the rule of untouchability, is read on the very day and other rituals are performed by women wrapped in white-red sarees.
8. Kumar Purnima
It is on this occasion that the unmarried girls pray for a bridegroom like Kumar or Kartikeya, the most eligible and handsome God, also known as the God of War. It occurs on the full moon day of Ashwina month. The young and unmarried girls worship the Sun in early morning and the Moon at night, wishing to get a husband as good-looking as the moon. A special delicacy, called “Chanda Chakata” is prepared in the shape of a half moon and offered to the moon God while performing the rituals.
9. Raja Parba
Beautifully decorated swings, special Raja Paan and a variety of food items mark this occasion. The odia festivals that is celebrated with great pomp and show, glorifying womanhood. The word “Raja” is derived from the word “Rajaswala”, meaning menstruating woman. Farmers don’t go to farms and it is advised to not hurt the mother earth in any way, as she is believed to undergo menstruation.
This 4-day long period honours women and rejects the stereotype that menstrual cycle makes a woman impure. Thus, freeing women from all household works and letting them enjoy wearing new clothes, and eating mouthwatering food.
Legends of Samba Dasami revolve around the son of Lord Krishna, Samba, who was afflicted by Leprosy. After 12 years of self-punishment in the Konark Temple, on this day he got rid of the illness. Thus, in the month of Pousha, the Sun God is offered with bhoga and many rituals are performed to get his blessings. The women cook different dishes and offer the Sun God, anticipating the good health of their children.(odia festivals)