Fading Festivals of Odisha

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Most of the people of Odisha are Hindus. They once observed a number of festivals (pujas, oshas, bratas, yatras and melas etc.) throughout the year. Lightly, it is said there are thirteen festivals in twelve months. These festivals were highly religious and were the essence of Odiya life. The get-together and the exchange of various types of bhogas (food offerings to gods) implied a lot to the people. Every family eagerly waited for these occasions. People in different parts of the State observed them as daily, monthly or seasonal events. In the long past, when many Odiyas were working outside the State keeping families at homes in villages, these were the occasions (most popular being Raja, Dashahara and Dola) to visit their homes to enjoy the festivity with family members and relatives.

Come the solar month Jyestha. Young girls were seen celebrating Raja festival and swinging in dolis singing melodious Raja ballads in chorus and playing puchi and chata. In the lunar month Aswina, they observed Janhiosha worshipping tulashi plant and decorating the chauras with golden yellow jhanhiphulas (ridge gourd flowers) making shapes of Chandra as per its waxing and waning. The women observed many bratas and oshas besides pujas for the well being of the children and family members. Sunia marked the day when rajas and zamindars renewed the land leases and collected revenue from ryotas (tenants) in cash or kind which was known as suniabheti.

With passage of time and changes in social living, many of the festivals have progressively faded or observed in lesser enthusiasm. Many might not even heard of them. Along with festivals, many typical Odiya recipes are also forgotten. Chitoupitha, chunchipataraand satapuri etc. are now items of antiquity. Only in the Badadeula at Puri they are offered to lord Jagannatha on specific occasions. Observing these and finding that there are not many books in Odiya or English language describing them, I have tried to recollect my childhood memories and have briefly mentioned some of them in this book for the information of present generation.  

While doing so, I have taken help of many ancient treatises, booklets and folktales, collected local customs traditions and practices in different parts of the State and also consulted bratis both in rural and urban Odisha to know about them. I acknowledge their help and assistances. It was a difficult job.

I admit I might not have included all the festivals that were once observed in the State. I seek the indulgence of erudite readers to point them out so that they can be included in future editions.

The book is divided into three chapters and various sub-subheads.

Chapter I describe the significances, back ground and rituals associated with sankrantis, amabasyas, purnimas andekadashis observed on basis of the movement of the Sun and the Moon as per the Odiyapanji (almanac). The folktales and stories associated with the mythology of Sun and Moon, the phenomenas of eclipses and the important sankrantis are described. Similarly, festivals and rituals associated with important amabasyasand purnimasandekadashis are described.

Chapter 2, deals with various bratas like Sudasha, Ananta, Shiva pradosha, Vinayaka etc. and oshas like Khudurikuni, Janhi and Bali trutiya etc. once observed in the State. 

Chapter 3 deals with the various festivals and religious events like Dushahera, Dipabali, Holi etc. observed on days other than the above mentioned days.  The chapter ends with short notes on Pala, Dasakathia, Chitas and Jhotis that are invariably associated with the festivals. In short, it is a compilation of various festivals observed by the people of the State, some of which have almost faded.

Detailed rites and rituals of the festivals are not a part of the book. Some of them are available in booklets and treatises (kathas) on individual festivals. Only the religious importance and episodes associated with them are briefly described.

I have used many words and phrases from the local dialect. Their meanings and senses are given alongside in brackets when first used. However, they are summarised in Glossary for ready reference.

I am thankful to Shri Bikash Bihari Bishwal (formerly of Odisha Administrative Services) for going through the manuscript and suggesting many improvements. I am also thankful to Smt Shruti Mahanti and Smt. Anita Bhatnagar for their encouragements and in going through the script and correcting the spelling and grammar mistakes.

It is expected that the book would be a condensed guide on the religious festivals in Odisha and the present generation would benefit from reading it

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