A large number of festivals and fairs are celebrated in Odisha. These differs from tribe to tribe, from caste to caste and also from region to region. Let us learn today more about Odisha Festivals & Fair below in detail.
Dandanata and Danda Jatra
Dandanata is derived from ‘Danda’ a pole and ‘mata’ a dance which is performed in a fair called ‘Danda Jatra’. This is celebrated in the month of Vaishaka (April-May). This fair is celebrated through dance, song and physical feats and the pole represents of Lord Shiva. The devotees are called ‘Bhokta’ and there are thirteen in a ‘Danda’ party. The leader is ‘Pata Bhokta’ , who leads a life of abstinence for twenty-one days prior to this festival.
The Bhoktas move from village to village and perform at a house only when invited. The Bhoktas roll on the hot sand in the mid-day sun of summer, dance, and sing praying for the welfare of house holder. Whether someone in the family is childless or poor or suffering from some incurable diseases, the householder usually vows to become a ‘Bhokta’ next time if his miseries are removed.
The austerities and physical sufferings include walking on fire, piercing the back with sharp nails, using poisonous snakes as garlands and making them sting the body, piercing the tongue or walking on a sharp sword edge etc, apart from fasting and abstinence. These are aimed in order to please and secure booms from Lord Shiva.
Variations of ‘Danda Jatra” are found in almost the whole of Odisha one variation is Jhamu Jatra or Nian Patua consisting of walking on a trench of fire, and the another one is ‘Uda Jatra” or Uda Patna in which the devotees are hooked from their back muscles and are swung high round a pole.
This fair is celebrated for twenty-one days in the month of ‘Jaishtha’ (May-June). When a smaller replica of Lord Jagannath is taken to the sacred tank for boating after being smeared with ‘chandan’ or sandal wood paste. This is aimed at providing cool comfort and relief from the summer heat. This is celebrated at places where there is a Jagannath temple and a lot of merriment goes with it when pilgrims congregate. The main centre of this fair is at Puri, the celebrated ‘shrikhetra’; the original seat of Lord Jagannath.
The return ‘car festival’ is celebrated in the beginning of the month of Shravana (July-August)
The fair at Chandrabhaga begins on the seventh day of the bright fortnight in the lunar month of Magha (January-February) and continues for seven days. It is held at the mouth of sacred Chandrabhaga river near the famous temple of Konarka. This sacred site figures in the myth of shamba of the Mahabharata days who was cured of his leprosy by worshipping Lord Surya, the Sun God. The Sun Temple of Konarka and the sacred site refer to the prevalence of a strong solar cult in the coastal Odisha. It is believed that whoever takes a bath in the Chandrabhaga will be cured of leprosy and bareness. Magh Saptami mela is observed at the same time at the Join centre of Khandagiri, near Bhubaneswer, for seven days.
Maha Shiva Ratri
Shiva Ratri is the most important festival in the annual cycle of rituals which is celebrated in the month of Phalguna (February-March.). The fair draws pilgrims from villages and towns around and devotees fast till after mid-night when the sacred lamp (Mahadeepa) is taken to the temple spire.
Beginning with the Purnima or the full moon day in the lunar month of Phalguna. The Radha and Krishna images from the Vaishnava temples begin the ritual journey to some important centres of congregation or Melana. With Holy or sprinkling of red ‘abir’ powder and chanting of bhajan and kirtan, the devotees come in a procession with images of Radha and Krishna carried in the Vimanas to the site of the fair. The deities pay a visit to several villages on their outing and receive homage and offerings from devotees. At the site of the fair chanting if spiritual songs and recitation of the Bhagavata and other scriptures are usually organised.
In western Odisha this ceremonially inaugurates the just use of green mango, Chaar berries, Mahul flower and paluash flower-all jungle fruits, flowers offered to deities. This is known as ‘Gundithaai Parba’ in western Odisha.
This all -India festival is celebrated in a few important villages and towns in Odisha in the month of Chaitra (March-April). The masks of Rama, Ravana and others of the Ramayana myth are worn by characters in a dramatic re-enactment of the epic happenings. This is accompanied by music and singing and is presented in the form of folk opera. The burning of the huge effigies as practiced elsewhere in India is not prevalent in Odisha. The fair is held in honour of Lord Rama to celebrate the victory of virtue over vice Ravana.
Patua Jatra and Chandak Puja
These are allied to the Banda Jatra described for month of Vaishakha and aimed at propitiation of Lord Shiva for boons. The months of Chaitra and Vaishakha are specially sacred for Shiva worshippers or the ‘lower castes’ presumably derived from Buddhist society. The same physical tortures for spiritual benefit are undergone and they overlap in time and in the rituals with the variations of Dand Jatra.
This spectacular chariot festival is held at the famous Jagannath temple at Puri. Rathyatra is also known as Car festival. This festival is celebrated in the month of Asadha, according to the Hindu calendar, on the second day of the lunar fortnight that falls during June-July.
Rathyatra is celebrated in honour of God Jagannath who is believed to be an incarnation of Vishnu. One of the many legends goes that Indradyamana, the king of Avanti went to Puri to have darshan of Vishnu but he found that the god had disappeared. The sage Narada assured Indradyamana that Vishnu would appear to him in the temple form of 3 wooden images. When a big tree, radiant with light was seen floating in the sea,
Narada told him to make 3 idols out of it and place them in a pavilion. Indrayamana got Visvakarma the architect of Gods, to build a magnificent temple to house the idols and Vishnu himself appeared in the guise of a carpenter to make the idols on condition that he was to be left undisturbed until he finished the work. Unable to restrain his curiosity, Indrayamana went to see Vishnu at work at which the latter abandoned his work leaving the images unfinished. But a divine voice told Indrayaman to install them in the temple.
The 3 images represent the god Jagannath, his elder brother, Balabhadra and their sister, Subhdra. On the day of the festival the images are taken out in procession in three chariots to their summer temple for a week. The main chariot is 14 metres high and 10 metres square with 16 wheels. The ropes of the huge chariots are pulled by millions of devotees. In earlier times devotees would occasionally throw themselves infront of the chariot of Sri Jagananath, for it was believed that to be crushed to death under its sixteen wheels was to go straight to heaven. Since Sri Jagannath is a form of Vishnu and Sri Krishna many of the rituals observed in the Puri temple are associated with events in the life of Sri Krishna. Thus the annual car festival represents Sri Krishna’s Journey from Gokul to Mathura.
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Pana Samkranti( Makar Sankranti Or Oriya New year)
Pana Samkranti or Chhatua Samkranti is celebrated to mark the first day of the solar month. On this day a small pot with a hole at the bottom filled with ‘pana’ or sweet drink is hung on a basil (Tulsi) plant. The falling of water from the pot symbolizes the falling of rain and thus this Samkranti marks the commencement of rainy season and of the cultivation cycle. The people of coastal Odisha ceremonially consume the flour of horse gram (chhatua) after offering it to the basil plant.
Makar Sankranti is celebrated in the month of ‘Magh’ and is a harvest festival. It is a celebration of spring on the occasion of the ‘ascent’ of the sun to the north (Uttarayana). In Maharashtra, Karnataka as well as parts of Andhra Pradesh, Makar Sankranti is a day of goodwill and friendship.
Makara Sankranti marks the commencement of the sun’s journey to the Northern Hemisphere (Makara raasi), signifying the onset of Uttarayana Punyakalam, and is a day of celebration all over the country. The day begins with people taking holy dips in the waters and worshipping the Sun.
Traditionally, this period is considered an auspicious time and the veteran Bhishma of Mahabharata chose to die during this period. Bhishma fell to the arrows of Arjuna. With his boon to choose the time of his death, he waited on a bed of arrows to depart from this world only during this period. It is believed that those who die in this period have no rebirth.
For the people in the Indo Gangetic plain, the day begins with taking dips in the Ganga and offering water to the Sun God. The dip is said to purify the self and bestow punya. Special puja is offered as a thanksgiving for good harvest. According to folklore, girls who take the holy dip get handsome husbands and boys get beautiful brides.
This festival is celebrated on the third day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Vaishakha. This important festival is held in every farming household. It is characterised by the ceremonial sowing of paddy in the field. Oblation is offered to the goddess of destiny, ‘Shathi’. This is the most auspicious day to start the construction of house buildings, digging of tanks and wells. This is the day on which the construction of the chariots for Ratha Jatra of Lord Jagannath and his brother and sister starts.
Raja is one of the most popular festivals of Odisha, though it is not observed in western Odisha. The first day of the Raja festival is always celebrated in the last day of the solar month of Jaishtha. The festival continues for three days. It is believed that the Earth goddess had started to menstruate on the first day of the Raja and after the third day she is taken to a ritual bath and returned to normalcy. So this is called as the menstruation period of the earth, so the earth is to be avoided like a woman. Therefore men and women avoid touching the earth.
Practically for three days there is a complete stoppage of work and especially boys and girls take to the swing and sing the typical Raja songs. Singing, merry-making, feasting and display of gymnastic feats and playing games become the most important preoccupations for this three days. On the fourth day, when the earth is ritually clean and is ready for fertilization, the ceremonial ploughing is undertaken in the paddy fields.
This is celebrated on the new moon day of the lunar month of Shravana. A special type of rice cake called ‘chitau’ is offered to Lord Jagannath at the temple. This cake is prepared and eaten with relish in almost every household. Gendeisuni, the goddess of snails and oysters is duly worshipped. These creatures are offered cakes and requested not to bruise the feet of farmers when they go to remove weeds from the fields.
A widely practiced custom among the tribal as well as non-tribal population of Odisha is the offering of the first fruits to the deities, especially to the village deities. Paddy is the most important crop which is considered as Goddess Lakshmi. There is a special variety of early paddy which is already ripe by this time. A porridge made of new rice is offered to the ancestral spirits and to the local deities.
This festival is celebrated as a merry festival of ‘Gahma Pumei’, on the full moon day of the lunar month of Shravana and is especially auspicious to agriculturists. On this day, cattle, especially plough cattle, are colourfully decorated and given special offering and are worshipped as ‘Go-Lakshmi’. That is the day of rest for the cattle. This festival has much attraction for some tribal groups like the Hill Bhuiyan of Odisha that in these lean months of semi-starvations.
This festival is celebrated on the first day of the solar month of Karthika. This is the time when the paddy plants or the ears of corn are forming. This is compared to pregnancy and hence the name ‘Garbhma’. These pregnant rice plants represent Lakshmi the Goddess of wealth and fertility and are worshipped with offerings in the paddy fields. They believe that through supernatural intervention a huge quantity of corn will thus harvested. All the family members eat to their heart’s content.
This festival is celebrated on the full moon day of the lunar month of Ashwina bring untold pleasure to the unmarried boys and girls. The worship of moon God is held at home as Janha Mamu (Moon, the maternal uncle.) brings them various delicacies and new clothes.
In the sacred month of Karthika many people forego their favourite non-vegetarian dishes till Karthika Purnima as part of sacred ritual. The day after the full moon is the great day of release from this religious taboo and all indulge in non-vegetarian dishes to their heart’s content.
This festival is celebrated for the well being of the first born in the family, whether boy or girl. The celebration falls on the eighth day of the dark fortnight of the lunar month of Margashira. Oblations are offered to God Ganapathi to protect the child against all hurdles in life. The child is given a new dress, feasted and blessed by the parents and other elders and friends.
This festival is celebrated on the first day of Solar pousha month. The month of pousha is considered the month of plenty. After collecting the harvest there is a festival of general rejoicing with special sweets of ‘Maun’.
The festival is celebrated on the tenth day in the bright fortnight in pousha lunar month. The myth has it that Lord Krishna’s son, Shamba, was cursed by a sage and he could get rid of his leprosy. The dreaded disease only by worshipping the Sun God at Arka tirtha, which is located on the Konark beach in Odisha. Women fast and worship Sun at dawn, midday and dusk and offer a variety of rice cakes and other delicacies. A mixed vegetable soup, known as ‘Ghadghada’ with leaves, tubers, local beans and pulse is a typical delicacy.
Chaiti Ghoda Nata
It is the most important festival of the fishermen of Odisha. Goddess basuli with a horse shaped head is worshipped from the full moon day of lunar Baishakha. According to the myth in Kaibarta Purana, the supreme god slept on the leaf of a banyan tree which was buffeted in the sea. He created a man out of the dirt of his ear to hold the rudder firmly and thus keep his leaf-bed steady. When he was dozing, the man was swallowed up by a gigantic fish. Again the leaf bed swerved and god angrily captured the fish and brought the man out. The man and his descendants became the inveterate enemies of fish.
They were ordained by god to earn their livelihood by catching fish. A part of the leaf was transformed into a horse. Under god’s orders Vishwakarma built a boat and the man and his horse has become the presiding deity of the descendants of the first Kaibarta or fisherman and boatman. The divine horse breathed its last on the eighth day of Baishakha and God consoled the first Kaibarta that this horse was goddess of Basuli and her worship would bring him salvation.
The representation of goddess Basuli is made of well-decorated horse-head made of wood attached to a trunk built of bamboo pieces and is coloured brown and decorated with garlands of red flowers. A man enters through a hole in the trunk and holds his head giving the appearance from a distance as he is riding a horse. Holding the reins he dances and the horse dances backward and forward to the beating of a drum. He sings songs composed by the folk poets.
The karma is a famous autumn festival which starts from the eleventh day of the bright fortnight of the month of Bhadrab and continues for some days in the month of Ashwina. The festival is celebrated in most of Odisha’s villages in Sambalpur and Phulabani districts.
The story behind this celebration goes: six sons of a rich merchant set sail in a ship for trade, leaving the youngest brother at home. When they returned they saw to their amazement that their wives danced in the ‘Karma’ festival, while the youngest brother was playing on the drum. Being enraged, they drove away their wives. At this, ‘Karma’ (the god of fortune) got angry and all their wealth vanished. They repented for their folly of driving out the goddess of wealth along with their wives. With the counsel of their wives they went in search of the God of fortune and met a milkman on the way.
The latter requested them to ascertain from the God why the number of his cows was fast decreasing. After some time they saw a strange man bearing on his head a piece of broken earthen pot with fire burning in it, and another man carrying a husking peddle on the shoulder. The next man they met was shivering in the suffering of these persons from the God and the means of getting free from them. The God after due worship was kind to them and on return they found that their house was filled with gold and jewels.
FESTIVITIES AMONG TRIBALS
Those among the tribes who are Hinduized perform many rituals and observe some festivals of their tribal past , especially those which do not directly conflict with Hindu customs and deities, by eschewing sacrifice of cows, buffaloes or offer of wine or partaking of these oblations. The christianized sections do not usually observe the tribal rituals and festivals, unless these can be harmoniously blended with Christianity.
One example may be given from the Sundargarh Oraon custom of ceremonial sowing of the paddy seeds, sanctified in the tribal way by sprinkling the blood of the sacrificed chicken. Among the catholic oraon, in a similar ceremonial sowing, the paddy seeds were blessed by Mother Mary in a sanctifying ritual at her altar in the local Church.
Among the tribesmen, festivities connected with sowing, harvesting and consumption of first fruits, and among shifting cultivations, the feeling of the jungle and burning it down for reduction to ash manure, are important ones. Interestingly, enough, success in ceremonial collective hunting in April-May often is believed to contribute to the success of their agricultural efforts . The Santhals have a special spring festival of rejoicing with sprinkling of water, special songs and dances. When the roles of the deities are acted out by men, and thereby many traditional social barriers fall.
Usually, the supreme god is not offered any specific worship among tribals. But among the Santhals of Mayurbhanj ,one may perform the worship every fifth year or at least one in a life-time. Bondo festivities have a great relevance for the tribal communities of Odisha. The Bondos spend a great deal of time on their religion, and the feasts and holidays are an important part of Bondo life.
Moreover, the collective festivities foster a sense of solidarity of the village and fortify one’s confidence in undertaking major activities in economic and social life as possible. Thus proving herself to be virtuous and devoted. The wife presents a number of delicacies to her husband at the end of her fast.
Pusha Punein is celebrated by the tribesmen of north Odisha, specially the Bhuiyan, the Gond and others. They celebrate this festival on a day closet to the actual full moon day of month. The whole village joins in the celebrations of feasting, drinking and dancing.
The goddess of small-pox, chicken-pox, cholera, measles and plague epidemics know variously in various regions. They have to be worshipped and offered a sweet drink called ‘pana’ at the function of roads leading away from the village. The goddess are asked to leave the supplicant village and save it from their wrath. Among tribals the village deities and some locally believed in Hindu deities are worshipped in some cases with blood sacrifice. Some rites of rain making in drought affected areas are also worshipped by the people of Odisha.
Lord Mahadeva in a most common rite is immersed in water so that there may be flood in the area in place of drought. The Santhal tribe of Mayurbhanj district propitiates Sima Bongas with promise of special offerings as demanded through the Shaman or spirit-medium. When rains come the promised offerings are made. The hill Bando also make sacrifices to lessen the fury of rain.
The fasts in contradistinction to the fairs and festivals are under taken by individuals in fulfillment of personal vows-either for one’s own personal interest or in interest of one’s loved ones. The fasts are of two kinds. The ‘Brata’ (vrata) is a fast undertaken in fulfillment of a vow made both men and women, whereas the ‘Osha’ is the fast which is undertaken only by women.
Bada Osha is essentially a major occasion of fasting. In coastal Odisha thousands of people gather at Dhabaleswar, Temple of Lord Mahadeva, in rocky islands in the midst of the river Mahanadi near Cuttak for fulfillment of boons. It is celebrated on the fourteenth of Kartika (September-October). This fast is also observed by men.
Mana Basa or Gurubara Osha
At the time when the paddy in the low-lying fields is ripe and harvesting has begun. Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth has blessed the cultivator and is to be thanked and the family members rejoice in the bounty.
It is a weekly celebration of the worship of the goddess with varieties of cakes and other delicacies every Thursday which is considered to be the day of Lakshmi. The goddess is represented by a special variety of whitish paddy put in a grain measure (‘Mana’). The lady of the house fasts and worships the goddess. Only the members of the family can partake of the oblations. Otherwise, goddess Lakshmi may leave the household of the worshipper. The concluding festivities of the last Thursday of the month are most elaborate.
Savitri is the deified virtuous woman who had brought back her husband to wife by doggedly pleading with the God of Death, Yama. By observing the fast on the new moon day of the lunar month of Jaishtha, the married woman seeks Savitri’s grace for making her husband live as long.
Young girl’s worship goddess Mangala in the morning of every Sunday in the month of Bhadrava. They believe that this God has the power of perform miracles of curing leprosy and other virulent diseases and the God is revengeful if one forgets to observe one’s fast, after obtaining a boon.
Jahmi or ridge-gourd is a forbidden fruit for the unmarried girls in the month of Bhadrava. The goddess Vrundavati who is located in the basil plant (Tulsi) is worshipped in this month. The Goddess is also credited with the power of unmarried girls of leprosy and a punishing the unbelievers especially married women, by inflicting death upon their children.
Shathi or Shasthi is the powerful goddess presiding over the destiny and welfare of all children. It is believed that she writes the child’s future on its forehead on the sixth day after the birth of the child. She is worshipped on the sixth day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Bhadrava by the mother and neighbouring family women. When the goddess pleased, she has been credited with restoring life to dead children.
This is a fast observed by married women only for worshipping the images of Uma and Maheswar made of sand. It is celebrated on the third day of the bright fortnight of Bhadrava. According to the myth in the Padma Purana, Parvathi had observed this fast and was married to Shiva. In other myth Lord Rama had worshipped the Divine couple for securing their favour in winning the war against Ravana. Young men on this day have the liberty of striking the roofs of the houses with sticks and of removing stone-steps from the door believing that the curses of people will be turned into blessing that day.
Dutiya Osha or Dutibahana Osha
The fast is observed on the eighth day of the dark fortnight of the lunar month of Ashwina for the fecundity of the luckless women. Women who are barren or are delivering still-born children or whose children have died. Worship the deified Dutibahana born of a Brahman widow and austerities by abstaining even from water. Various fruits are offered to the goddess who is credited with many great miracles.
Rai Damodar Varta And Panchuka (Panchaka)
Hindu widows widely observe this fast in Odisha for twenty-five days from the first day of the lunar month of karthika. In the locally current myth, Rai, the daughter of the leader of the temple priests of Lord Jagannath at Puri was married to the Lord and thus was deified. She was granted a boon by the divine consort of the Lord Lakshmi that she would be worshipped along with Lakshmi. The widows worship Damodar along with Rai and Lakshmi by having only one meal of sun-dried rice, called ‘havisha ‘.
The last five days of this holy month are known as ‘Bagapanchuka’. During these five days only Lakshmi and Narayan was worshipped. During the Panchuka days, married women also worship goddess Vrundavati at the altar with the sacred basil plant, by decorating the place with beautiful designs in multi-coloured powders made from indigenous herbs and other materials.
Naga Chauthi Osha
This fast is observed on the fourth day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Karthika. Women worship naga serpent God Pingala in the form of a snake image made of gold, silver or of rice paste near an ant-hill. The fast is observed to protect the family members from snake-bite.
According to the myth, a merchant’s wife had betrayed the trust of her ‘Sangata’ and also the serpent Mother Goddess (Naga Matha). All her six sons died of snake bite. The seventh son was married to a princess, who had faithfully observed this fast and she had been blessed by Naga Matha to be ‘Aisulakshmi’ or the virtuous wife whose husband would not die before she died. Therefore though her husband was accursed and was bitten to death, he was restored to life along with six elder brothers.
Kanji Amla Osha
This is held on the ninth day of the dark fortnight of the lunar month of Margashira at the onset of cold season in Odisha. The housewife worship goddess Shathi whose image is placed among seven dried fishes decorated with vermilon, collyrium and yellow rags. ‘Kanji’ (The peculiar soup made with rice water cooked with vegetables) , Amalaki or Amla ( a sour berry) and dried fish are invigorating in winter.
Chaiti Mangalabara Osha
Goddess Mangala is worshipped on Tuesdays in the lunar month of Chaitra. In the myth one untouchable women belonging to the scavenger community known as ‘Chaiti’ used to offer wine, meat and eggs to Mangala. She once saw the inauspicious face of the Raja of the land and expressed her fear in disgust. The Raja got all her sons crushed under a husking lever. But they were restored to life by the grace of Mangala. The Raja learnt a lesson and his queen worshipped Mangala and was blessed with sons.
Sudasha Varta is observed by women on the tenth day in bright fortnight when it falls on Thursday. Lakshmi the Goddess of wealth is worshipped with offering of 10 steamed rice cakes (manda) under great austerities. With sacred thread of 10 strands, 10 knots are made praying to Lakshmi in her 10 forms and numes and tying together 10 grains of raw-rice and 10 blades of durva grass in a sacred leaf, an arm band is formed and worn for religious merit, prosperity and well being. In the myth a King had got back his kingdom and wealth as his wife observed Sudasha Vrata.
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