Fairs and Festivals of Orissa
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. 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 annual car festival represents Sri Krishna's Journey from Gokul to Mathura.
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 Orissa ceremonially consume the flour of horse gram (chhatua) after offering it to the basil plant.
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 Orissa. 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 her menstrual cycle on the first day of the Raja and the cycle ended on the third day after a ritual bath. Singing, merry-making, feasting and display of gymnastic feats and playing games become the most important activities for these 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 Orissa 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 ready 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 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 a huge quantity of corn will be harvested as a result of this respect of the paddy fields.
This festival is celebrated on the full moon day of the lunar month of Ashwina. The worship of moon God is held at home as Janha Mamu (Moon, the maternal uncle) brings unmarried boys and girls various delicacies and new clothes.
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 only by worshipping the Sun God at Arka Tirtha, which is located on the Konark beach in Orissa. 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 Orissa. 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 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.
Dandanata and Danda Jatra
Dandanata is derived from 'Danda' a pole and 'nata' 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.
Variations of 'Danda Jatra" are found in almost the whole of Orissa 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 is similar to Murugan worshippers in Tamil Nadu.
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 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. Magh Saptami mela is observed at the same time at the Jain 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.
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. The same physical tortures for spiritual benefit are undergone and they overlap in time and in the rituals with the variations of Dand Jatra.
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