Archive for the ‘Orissa Festivals’ Category

Visuva Sankranti : Beginning of the oriya New Year

Pana Sankranti

Worshipping the Tulsi Plant in Pana Sankranti

Orissa retains its own set of festival and tradition that give it  its distinct identity. Bisuva Sankranti is one such festivals of orissa. Celebrated as the first day of the Oriya calendar, Bisuva sankranti marks the end of spring festival and welcomes the summer season. This festival is also known as pana sankranti, Mesha Sankranti and Chattua sankranti.

The word “Bisuva” in oriya means equator and the sun fully rests on the equator making the day days and nights of equal duration, on this particular date. And from here on the sun starts on its journey towards the northern hemisphere which marks the beginning of the summer season. This day is thus considered auspicious and celebrated enthusiastically.

Housewives in Orissa celebrate the first day of the astral month  of the year by worshiping the Basil(Tulsi) plant. A specila drink called pana, prepared from the mixture of bel fruit,yoghurt and paneer is offered to the God on this day.People of Orissa ceremoniously consume offer pana to each oher on this day.  A small pot with a hole in its bottom is filled with “Pana” and hung atop the Tulsi plant . It is believed that this act symbolically represents that water being the most important constituent for sustaining life in the earth, should be provided to all in the month of summers.

Mythological connotation and Tradition

The “Bhabisya Purana” mentions this day as the  Jala Sankranti. Legends have it that when Bhisma the grandfather of Kauravs and pandavas was laying on the bed of arrows in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, he wanted his trist to be quenched by fresh ground water.Arjuna thus thrusted an arrow deep in the ground that a stream of cold water sprang out to quench his thrist. Out of contentment and compassion Bhishma conferred to ‘Yudhisthira’, “Those people who would offer cold water to thirsty people on this day would not only be free from all sins, but also the departed souls of their ancestors as well as the Gods in heaven would be pleased.” This saying of the holy scripture is observed with great reverence and people all over the country offer sweet-water to thirsty people as a religious ritual.

Other ways of Observance

This festival is observed widely in some form or other in the coastal areas, in some towns  and villages of other areas as a rigorous ritualistic observance. Deeply connected with the  mass religious culture of Orissa, a number of other festivals otherwise known as “Jhamu Yatra“, “Hingula Yatra” or “Patua Yatra“, “Danda Yatra“, “Uda Yatra” etc., which originated as ritualistic observances of “Chaitra Parva” culminate in the Visuba Sankranti and make a grand finale of the whole celebration.

Bali Yatra of Orissa: Commemoration of The Journey to Bali Island

Entrance gate of  Bali Yatra  - 2010

Entrance gate of Bali Yatra - 2010

Culturally opulent Orissa is a land of fairs and festivals. There is not one carnival worth naming that is not observed with considerable fanfare in the state. Every festival in the state is laden with its own cultural significance ad celebrated in its own unique way. Each has its own history and a distinctive story that sets it apart from the other.

Bali Yatra is one such festival. The festival associated with the adventurous spirit of the Oriyas, bring back the picture of  the brave merchants braving the seven seas to change the lives of their families and brethren. The festival of Bali yatra pays tribute to the indomitable spirit   of the Oriya merchants  and connects them to the Bali ( present day Indonesia) people in more ways than one. The business bond that grew in the yore still lives in both the lands. The name “Bali– Yatra” in fact is a pointer to the same. Bali yatra in itself refers to the “journey to Bali” – the favored destination of traders of the yesteryears. Bali, java, Sumatra , Ceylon might be dream destinations  for Oriyas today but the historic Bali Jatra celebrates the journey that started and rolled on for years , binding both land and cultures in the process.

The massively popular fair is held on the banks of Mahanadi river in the fort area of Cuttackfrom where the traders of yesteryears (sadhaba) undertook voyages along the beaten trade route on huge boats called “Boita”. To relive the glory of ancient times – the opulence associate with the thriving trade and the prosperity , the people of Cuttack as well as that of the entire state float small boats in the river and remember the by gone times .

Women floating water boats in Mahanadi in Kartika Purnima

Women floating water boats in Mahanadi in Kartika Purnima

The state strikes a nostalgic note and the collective consciousness of Oriyas drifts back to the good old days of their association with Bali and the glorious maritime tradition of trans – oceanic voyages traders undertook to South East Asian countries.  The dream merchants rest in Peace today  but the dreams still live. In consonance with the “bidding adieu” practice in those days when the wives prayed for the successful return of their husbands, married women and children today wearing colorful costumes gather near the water bodies carrying tiny boats made of  paper or thermocol . They then place small lighted lamps inside them as a mark of memory of the merchants who ventured out into the unknown in search of prosperity and launch it on the gentle waves of the water amidst the blowing of the conches, ululations and occasional bursting of fire crackers.

The entire stretch of Mahanadi flowing beside the Gadgadeswar Temple in Cuttack which was the starting point of the trade route to the Bali island turns into a conundrum of activity early in the morning on this day of Kartik Purnima.

Legends And Bali Yatra

 There are two stories relating to the celebration of Bali Yatra inCuttack. The first one rel;ates to the visit of Lord Chaitanya to Orissa some 500 years back who upon his visit to cuttack crossed the Mahanadi river  and proceeded for a darshan of “Sakhigopal” at the Barabati Fort. He is then supposed to have taken a bath in theMahanadi  on the full moon day of Kartika and then have rested on the sands at the river bed. Since sand is called “Bali” in the local language, the festival came to be called Bali Yatra in consonance with Sri Chaitanya’s historic visit and bath.

The other more popular and widespread belief is that of the commemoration of the  trade relations between the merchants of  Orissa and that of IndonesianislandofBali. The ships carrying merchandise from Orissa to the island country sailed out on the auspicious day of the kartik Purnima. Hence the day became synonymous with the festivities. Oriya merchants who went for trade overseas would return with riches and tales of adventure. their wives accompanied by their children  and neighbors thronged the Gadgadia ghat to welcome their husbands on arrival. In those days women were not allowed to venture out. However on this day, they went out to see off their husbands and willingly bought out things of their choice. This was the reason why a fair was organized in front of the Barbati Fort for the ladies . In the course of time the fair came to be known asBaliyatra.

Bali Yatra In Today’s Context

Bali Yatra of Cuttack

Bali Yatra of Cuttack

 Today Bali Yatra is a high profile fair that is visited by many from Orissa and outside. And the popularity is attested by the fact that once a five day affair, Bali Yatra today has been extended to eight days in view of the huge influx of enthusiasts and visitors from across the country. The fair has all sorts of stalls selling almost everything. Visitors to the fair can lay their hands on almost everything from pearls and costly metals to local spices. And then there are throngs of stalls selling varieties of delicacies. From traditional dahi-bara- aludum to gupchups, biryanis and chowmeins , these stalls are real crowd pullers.

With time the Baliyatra has changed a lot but it still retains the traditional fervor for which it is known for. The exponential increase in the volume of visitors through the years has forced the organizers to expand the fair to near the banks of Mahanadi over and above the old yatra ground that lies near the fort.

What is heartening to see in Bali Yatra even today is the fact that  people still remain associated with their culture. Though the modern day fair has changed a lot with times, the historical event is still celebrated along the same objectives that made it such a popular affairs of the yore. Though the ports along the coast have become inactive due to gradual silting in the river bank, the pomp associated with the festival has only grown. And the festival today is more an opportunity for the people of the state to revive pleasant memories associated with long nourished tradition of glory that casts a halo around the festival.

Gajalaxmi Puja of Orissa

Gaja Laxmi

Gaja Laxmi Puja In Orissa

Gaja Lakshmi Puja is celebrated on Sharad Purnima, full-moon day in the Oriya month of Aswina (September- October). This autumn festival is one of the most popular and important festivals of Orissa. The Goddess of wealth is worshipped for one day. In some places it is celebrated for 7 to10 days and the festival is especially celebrated by the business community in Orissa.

Gaja Lakshmi, is a manifestation of Goddess Lakshmi. As Gaja Lakshmi, she is  presented as the Goddess of Elephants symbolizing Power, Strength, Grace and Fertility.Goddess Gajalakshmi is one of the Ashtalakshmi (eight aspects of Goddess Lakshmi). The others being –

  • Adi Lakshmi
  • Dhana Lakshmi
  • Dhanya Lakshmi
  • Santana Lakshmi
  • Veera or Dhairya Lakshmi
  • Vijaya Lakshmi
  • Vidya Lakshmi.

Gajalaxmi  is the most powerful Goddess among the eight aspects. She is projected as four-armed, clad in red garments, she carries two lotuses, other two arms in abhaya mudra and varada mudra and she is flanked by two elephants bathing her with water pots. Gaja Lakshmi is believed to be the giver of animal wealth like cattle and elephants. Swami Chidananda interprets Gaja Lakshmi as giver of power of royalty. Mythology establishes her as the one who brought back all the wealth lost by Indra. There is a popular belief that whoever keeps awake during night would be blessed with wealth and prosperity. Card games are particularly popular method of staying awake.

In Orissa this Gajalakshmi Puja is  celebrated with unmatched enthusiasm in Dhenkanal and Kendrapara, . Here Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi are worshipped. It continues for eleven days. It starts from the day of Kumar Purnima (15th day of Aswina Shukla Pakshya, according to Hindu calendar) and continues for eleven days. The tradition of this puja was initiated in 1923 at Kunjasahu Chowk, now known as Ganesh Bazaar.

Most noteworthy feature of Lakshmi Puja of Dhenkanal is that, starting from college road to Korian Chhack (about 7 km) the visitors can see all the puja pandals situated on both sides of the road. The entire town is decorated with puja mandaps and electrical illumination. During this occasion, Paleeshree Mela is organized by the District Administration. A lot of cultural programmes organized by different clubs & puja committees add charm to this festival.

Besides Dhenkanal, Gaja Laksmi puja is also celebrated in other Districts & towns of Orissa, such as: Angul, Kendrapada.

 

 

 

Celebrating Diwali the Oriya Way

As a state with culture and history that is  significantly different from other regions of the country, Orissa has its own set of festivals

Burning Kaunriyas in Diwali day in Orissa

Burning Kaunriyas in Diwali day in Orissa

and festivities that are unique only to this part of the globe. The same holds true for the Festival of lights “ Diwali”.

While diwali is celebrated with much fanfare in different parts ofIndiaby lighting lamps and bursting crackers, traditionally in Orissa, it has been a a day of invoking ancestors  and performing the kaunria ritual. Associated with Lord Jagannath, the ritual stand on the belief that by paying obeisance to our forefathers, we receive their blessings on this auspicious day. Thus as a festival in Orissa, Diwali  is an occasion to pay homage to our forefathers .

In every Oriya home, the day starts with drawing rangolis  in front of the house. The Rangoli is drawn  in the shape of sailboat on the ground in front of their house  and is filled with items like cotton, salt, mustard, asparagus root, turmeric and a wild creeper.However in the central chamber, prasad is placed and over which a diya of a jute stem with cloth wick is lit. This marks the beginning of puja. “Tarpana” – the ritual meant to invoke the  spirits of the ancestors.Immediately after the dusk, all members of household gather for lighting kaunria ( pith of the jute plant). A lighting lamp is placed inside an earthen pot that is tied to a pole erected in front of the house . All the members then hold a  bunch of jute stick in their hands and lit them from the fire from main diya i.e. the diya kept over prasad and raise the bunch towards the sky chanting the following verse. And then in presence of every members of the house, a bundle of the the kaunria is lit during the puja and raised skywards accompanied with the chant: “Badbadua ho and Haara re aasa aalua re jaa “meaning  O forefathers come in the dark of the evening ,we light your way to the heaven! The significance of the ritual is that we show respect to our ancestors who reinforce their absence from the physical world by our presence.

Although the tradition of lighting kaunria still exists in some parts of Chattisgarh,Biharand Uttar Pradesh, it is religiously followed in Orissa. Kaunria draws its significance from the religious tradition of the Jagannath culture. It is prepared from the Jute Plant. It is generally believed that Lord Jagannath had bestowed his blessings  on eight plants. These plants are called the “ Asta Paata Sakhi” of the Lord. Jute being one of the eight, has its own importance in accentuating the Jagannath culture.

Another belief that holds its sway with the ritual is that , during the Dark moon day of Diwali, earth on its southwards movement towards the Tropic of Capricon, comes close to a place in the space where our forefathers reside after death. The realm is submerged in darkness and by lighting the kaunria sticks  this day, we honor the departed souls. The worshipper who lights kaunria faces southwards in the north east corner of  his house. In a matter of seconds, the sticks leap into prominient flame  providing light and warmth to the ancestors. They thus shower their blessings on us.

Whatever be the belief and however illogical it may sound to the modern logical mind, it is a fact that in today’s world when mana hardly as time left to think of anything else apart from his own self and interest, festival of burning the Kaunria stick brings us closer to our past and makes us realize that we are  present because once our ancestors were once present in the world.

 

Parab: The Melting Point of Tribal Culture in Orissa

Boat Race- parab Festival

Boat Race- parab Festival

Koraput is blessed with a broad panorama of beautiful hills, enchanting streams, spectacular waterfalls, wonderful caves and lush green valleys. The land dominated by ancient tribal is also noted for its vibrant culture. Giving expression to the culture of the land is the festivals of festivals – The Parab.

 Organized since 1996 by the district council of Koraput,Parab  fetival celebrates the tribal life and culture. It does not merely showcase  the rich tribal culture of Koraput, it also serves as the forum for various tribes, with distinct cultures and life experiences, to interact and work towards preserving their indigenous cultural heritage, arts and handicrafts.

 With the passage of time, the Parab  festival has become popular with its fair share of [patrons and both local and international tourists. It is a one of a kind festival in terms of the number of participants and events involved. More than 50,000 participants flock to Koraput top attend this mega festival that runs for a month and hosts cultural events, quiz, essays and debate competitions, a craft mela, artist camps, seminars, book fair, boat race, mountain trekking among other things. But what draws the maximum attention in the festival are folk arts, tribal dance and other cultural events that reflect the cultural heritage of the tribes of Koraput.

 The festival provides a platform to the talented tribal youth in the area and encourages them to come forward and participate in preserving their heritage. It is a forum for interaction of different tribes from all over the country.

 The Kabi Sammelans (gathering of poets) and artist camps are a highlight of the festival and brings together unique talent from all over.

 The festival gives the world a glimpse into the kaleidoscopic world of the tribes. Works of eminent writers on the hardships of tribal life are available in the book fair. The trekking expedition is organized into the highest peak of the Orissa – the Deomali.

 The festival has been instrumental in reviving many otherwise fading folk dances and music threatened due to rapid industrialization, urbanization, modernization and cultural invasion.

 

Bommala Koluvu : The festival of Doll Display in Orissa

 Bommala Koluvu : The festival of Doll Display

Bommala Koluvu : The festival of Doll Display

When displaying king sized clay idols of Durga and her entourage is the norm of worship in the country during the Dussehra, Telugu residents of Berhampur in Orissa  celebrate the festival by exhibiting various dolls and figurines. The festival is known among the Telugu community as Bommala Koluvu.

 Bommala Koluvu is an integral part of Dussehra celebrations by Telugu people and Several dolls of animals and birds, as also figurines depicting tribal and village life, their festivals and culture, are displayed in the telugu houses in Berhampur  with dazzling lights.

When people come to a person’s house to see the Kolu, usually they are given prasad (the offering given to God that day), kumkum and a small bag of gifts. These are only given to girls and married women. In the evenings, a “kuthuvilakku” (small lamp) is lit, in the middle of a decorated “kolam”(Rangoli), before the Kolu and devotional hymns and shlokas are chanted. After performing the puja, the food items that have been prepared are offered to the goddesses.

Like any festival, Kolu also has a significant connection with agricultural economy of ancientIndia. It is said that in order to encourage dredging and de-silting of irrigation canals and riverbeds the Kolu celebration was aimed at providing demand for the clay material got from such activities. There are many peculiar customs and beliefs in different parts ofIndiathat imbue sacred status to clay. Dissolving Ganesha dolls made of wet clay into the water system is one such belief.

For the telugu residents of Berhampur, the festival is much more than a way of festivity. For them it is more about keeping in touch with their roots . And they make every arrangement to display their own tradition. Several Telugu speaking people in Berhampur displayed the dolls in their houses  this year and invited others to visit their houses and enjoy the exhibition. with many Oriya people making a beeline to witness the scene.

Silver Pandals of Silver City in Durga Puja

Silver Pandals of Maa Durga in Cuttack

Silver Pandals of Maa Durga in Cuttack

It’s the Puja time and festivity is in air. Durga Puja is celebrated all overIndia but has its unique identity in the eastern parts ofIndia, especially in the sattes ofWest Bengal and Orissa. People from far and wide visit these states just to get a glimpse of colorfully adorned Durga idols in various pandals and bask in the spirits of the Puja. With shimmering lights, special delicacies and cultural festivities, its like a big party, day and night. Every region has its special way of celebrating the puja and each stands out in its uniqueness.

In this race to excel and make an impression, the city of Cuttack has its own way of creating pandals during the durga Puja. The silver city literally lives up to its name and its stunning  Chandi Medha(silver Pandals)  have become a huge crowd puller over the years. The Millennium City celebrates all the festival with much fanfare and devotion but Dussehra is by far the most glamorous. Visitors throng the city to witness the grandeur and glitz associated with the Puja and don’t return disappointed. The glorious silver pandals created with tones of silver and oodles of talent leave people speechless with awe.

Origin of Durga Puja in Orissa

There are many accounts of the origin of the Durga Puja in Orissa. Some historical facts point to the influence of other regions while some mythological accounts describe an independent origin. It is said that during 1512 to 1517 Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu  had visited Cutack, the then capital of Orissa. The then king Gapaati Pratap rudra Deva received him at the Gadgadia Ghat situated near theMahanadi river bank very close to his palace the Barabati fort. That year, Sri Chaitanya started Durga Puja at the Binod Bihari temple in Balu Bazaar. It is also believed that during the freedom struggle Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had organized Durga Puja  in his birth city ofCuttack with great pomp to unite youngsters  against the Britishers in the lines of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak who had popularized  the Ganesh Utsav in Maharastra .

The first recorded Sarvajanik Puja in the state is said to have been held in 1832 in the Kaazi Bazaar area ofCuttack. The city is now famous for its silver pandals, the decoration in the backdrop of Maa Durga made up of pure silver.

Silver Filigree and Silver pandals of Cuttack

Cuttack has always been recognized for its fine silver filigree works. History says that during the rein of Aurangzeb, businessman from Middle East had encouraged the artisans o fCuttack to take up filigree art way back in the15th century. Those days it was known as the Mughal art. Local artisans picked up the art form and started specializing in silver filigree while the marketing was done by Gujrati businessman in the state. Prominent social reformer Mr Madhusudan Das  finding that the local artisans were being exploited by the businessman, brought a ray of hope for the artisans by forming the  local Kalinga filigree co-operative society.

In order to give the filigree work of Cuttack a new orientation, the first silver pandal was made with 250 kgs of pure silver was put up at the choudhury Bazaar puja pandal in 1956. In 1975 the organizers went on to make the throne of the Mother with silver. The silver pandals created such ripples that many other puja committee decided to copy the idea. The second silver pandal was created at the Sheikh Bazaar pandal in 1991 weighing almost 4 quintals. The third was at Alisha Bazaar followed by Balu Bazaar. At present there are 13 pandals in Cuttack city.

Silver Filigree Artisans

Silver Filigree Artisans Working on the ornaments of Maa Durga

Local artisans of Cuttack fully design and make the silver pandals. It takes almost 6-8 months for 12-14 workers to create silver pandal. The design of the pandals is very intricate and it has to be done with lots of tender care and creativity. Earlier silver was used only for the backdrop. But now it is also used for the ornaments like crown, necklace and also the armlets and anklets of the goddess. The design and craftsmanship of the pandal depends upon the amount of silver used. More the quantity of silver, more unique the design. With time, the design of the pandals has also evolved and now a days folding silver pandals have become the order of the day for many puja committees inCuttack.

In Cuttack city, more than 200 artisans are engaged in silver filigree work, especially in designing pandals. They reside mostly in Alisha Bazaar, Mansighpatna, Mohmodia Bazaar and Ramgarh. It take almost three to four quintals of silver to create a pandal of standard size (15 ft length and 16ft height) and if the crown and other ornaments are added, then the weight of the silver being used goes up proportionately. The total cost amounts to over 2 crores rupees. The purpose of creating silver pandals inCuttackwas to provide employment to the struggling artisans. But now it has became a status symbol for puja committees each competing with the other to come up with a better pandal. Artisans of neighboring states  had started migrating to Orissa in 1950’s to learn and imitate the art of silver filigree.  Due to this local artisans suffered. But now because of the pandals, they get work all round the year and able to earn their livelihood.

The members of Alsiha Bazaar puja committee were offered to display their unique silver filigree work at the  International Trade Fair held at the Pragati Maidan inDelhiin the year 2000. this drew much attention and attracted many foreign tourists. Some even visited theSilverCityto have a glimpse of the silver Pandal.

As far as the financial aspect of making the silver pandasl; is concerned, it is taken care of by the Puja committee with the help of local residents and business establishments.After the puja the pandal is dismantled and kept under the custody of the concerned puja committee in bank vaults or puja mandaps. The silver needs to be polished at regular intervals to ensure its glazing sheen.

Kanwariyas and the month of Shravan in Orissa

kanwariyas walking on their way to Shiva temple

kanwariyas walking on their way to Shiva temple

Shiva Temples experience unusually high footfalls; Roads and streets are painted saffron; the air ricochets with the chants of Bol Bhums and worshipping and fasting become an order of the day – Well this is a regular feature of Shravan Month that coincide with the rainy seasons in India. And walking on the lane, particularly on Mondays , which are considered the most auspicious of all days of the week in the month of Shravan, you can see the multitude as though they have got omnipresent.

The first Monday month of Shravan that begins on 18th of July this year is expected to make the city a teeming point of Kanwariyas. Devotees throng in multitudes carrying water from the Gadgadia ghat of Mahanadi in Cuttack to Lingraj Temple of Bhubaneswar walking down the entire stretch in bare foot. The Kanwariyas – as they are called move in groups chanting “Bam Bam Bhole” carrying the pitcher filled with the sacred water slung on a bamboo stick on their shoulders as they trek their way to the Temple city.

It is an act of devotion and a feat of endurance, for the journey must be made by traveling on foot taking only one meal per day and making sure that the water or “Kanwar” is never placed on the ground during the entire trek. The water is never to touch the ground until it is used in the consecration of the Shivalinga. Dressed up in saffron clothes, sporting tilak on their forehead and applying tattoos of varied designs , the devotees offer oblations to Lord Shiva and seek his blessings.

Legend behind the Month of Shravan and Kanwariyas

Lord Shiva Drinking Poision

Lord Shiva Drinking Poision

Mythological anecdotes refer to the story of churning of Ocean ( Samudra manthan) by the demons and gods. The churnings reveal 13 types of jewels and a pot of Ambrosia (Amrit ) and a pot of Poison. While the Gods and Goddesses eagerly tasted the amrit (if consumed was to provide immortality), none ventured forward to have a taste of the poison. The toxic poison named Halahal or Kalkuta was finally consumed by Lord Shiva on the supplication of gods and demons. While Shiva drank the poison and held it in his throat, it caused tremendous heat in his body and changed the color of his neck, he was offered with Gangajal (water from the Ganga) to pacify Him. Lord Shiva got the name of Neelkanth (in Sanskrit “neela” means the color blue and “kanth” means neck) after this event. Shivalingas have thus been worshipped by pouring waters over the Shivlingas, a process known as JALABISHEK.

Since this happened in the month of Shravan,it has become a tradition to offer water to the Lord in this month.

Shravan – A month of penance and devotion

The month of Shravan is symbolic with praying and fasting, it being a month dedicated to practicing self restraint and exercising control over all worldly desires. The fasts done in the month of shravan on Mondays are known as Shravan Somwar Vrat. It is believed that by observing Sravan Somvar Vrat all desires gets fulfilled. It is believed that if unmarried women keep fast on Mondays of the month they would get a good husband. Apart from Monday’s, women keep fasts on Tuesdays and Fridays of the month too. On Tuesdays newly married brides keep the Mangala Gauri Vrata to get rid of bad omens and married women keep Varalaksmi Vrata on Friday (Shravan Shukravar Vrata).

Each day in the month of Shravan has a special significance and other deities are worshiped too. Mondays are dedicated to Shiva, Tuesdays to Gauri, Wednesdays to Vithala, Thursdays to Mercury and Jupiter, Fridays to Lakshmi and Tulsi, Saturdays to Shani and Sundays to Sun. Many do Pujas of Lord Vishnu on Saturday. Those who have complications in their birth chart due to the planet Saturn observe fast on this day of Sampat Shanivar .Praying to Goddess Lakshmi is also considered auspicious in this month. Some other auspicious occasions in the month of Shravan are Hariyali Amavasi, Hariyali Teej, Nag Panchami, Tulsi Das Jayanti,Putradaikadashi, Shravani Purnima, Rishi Panchami, Krishna Janmashtami and Raksha Bandhan.

Shital Shasthi: Unique festival of Deity Wedding in Orissa

Shital Shasti is a major festival of western Orissa that symbolizes the marriage of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati in western Orissa, particularly Sambalpur. The five-day long festival begins with the ‘Patra pendi’ ritual. The marriage festival of Shiva is held on the sixth day of the bright fortnight of the month of ‘Jyestha’.

The Legend

Shital Shasthi festival of Orissa

Shital Shasthi festival of Orissa

Lord Shiva after the death of Goddess Sati was practicing intense austerity and was no longer interested in family life. Taking this as an opportunity, demon Tarakasura prayed to Lord Brahma and obtained the boon that he will only be killed by a son of Lord Shiva. After obtaining the boon Tarakasura created havoc on earth, heaven and hell and he drove out the ‘devas’ from heaven.

Devas approached Vishnu but he told them about the boon and asked to approach Mother Shakti to find a way out. Shakti agreed to take rebirth as Parvati and marry Shiva.

But Shiva continued with his intense austerities. Pravati who was born as the daughter of Himalaya only had Shiva in her mind and wanted to marry him. But Shiva was not willing to take her as his wife. Devas tried several methods but could not change the mind of Shiva.

Finally, Parvati started intense meditation and Shiva had to finally oblige. (This intense fast undertaken by Parvati is annually observed as Hartalika Teej Vrat in North India and Swarn Gouri Vratam in South India by women to get good husbands.)

Ritual

In most Brahmin villages of Orissa there are temples of Shiva, Parvati and Vishnu. During this festival the elderly Brahmins of the village act as the parents of the bride (‘Parvati’) and the bridegroom (Shiva) and all formalities of a Brahmin marriage are observed. In analogy with the society-marriages where somebody acts as a mediator, here, Vishnu, the God Himself takes the role.

At first a proposal (written on palm-leaf) is sent from the bride’s side to the bride-groom’s father through ‘Sevak’ who also carries ‘Mahaprasad’ (Food offering of Lord Jagannatha), coconut, betel nut, and a piece of new cloth as prevalent in marriage customs. With him goes a procession of torchbearers, drummers and pipers.

Thereafter, on the fifth day (‘Panchami’) at past mid-night Parvati goes to the temple of Shiva in a procession where the marriage takes place with all Vedic formalities. After the marriage is over a feast is arranged in which the ‘Sevayats’ from both the sides participate.

The real festival takes place next day in the night when the marriage procession is taken out with pomp and grandeur. The images of Parvati and Vishnu are carried in a richly decorated palanquin (‘Vimana’) heading the procession. Shiva, seated on a bull follows them on a bullock cart. At crossroads and important places the procession halts and there is lavish display of fire-works, dancing, drumming and various other kinds of merry-making.

The Celebrations In Sambalpur & Bhubaneswar

The festival is celebrated with much fervor in the temples of Loknatah at Puri, Lingraj at Bhubaneswar and elsewhere in Orissa. But it is in Sambalpur that the grandeur nad pomp of the festival is worth witnessing.

Starting from the day one to the organizing of the procession for marriage, the Brahman villages show exceptional camaraderie in observing the festival. Streets light up and thousands congregate to watch the procession. Lavishly decorated tableau, dance and music parties and elaborate fireworks follow the procession. Once the procession reaches the respective temple, the festival ends.

The Festival of Savitri Brata of Orissa

Married Women of Orissa performing puja in Savitri Amavsya

Married Women of Orissa performing puja in Savitri Amavsya

Savitri Amavasya” or “Savitri Brata” is an important vow that married women in Orissa practice by observing fast for their husband and wishing for their long life. Observed on the ‘Amavasya’ (last day of the dark fortnight) in the month of ‘Jyestha’, the day is considered very auspicious and the fast is observed by every married women in Orissa.

Married women in Orissa fast during the day and listen to the story of Savitri and Satyabana. The fasting is dedicated to Savitri and Satyavana her husband who was destined to die within one year but was brought back to life by her severe penance.

How is the Savitri Brata observed?

Women get up early, have their bath and wear new clothes. They put new bangles and apply vermillion on their forehead and start arrangements for the worship. Savitri is symbolically represented by the grinding stone, locally known as Sila Pua. The grinding stone is thoroughly cleaned and decorated with haldi (Turmeric), Sindoor (Vermillion), new saree and gold ornaments. The women then listen to the legends of Savitri and Satyaban that is recited by the priest. Then they offer various types of fruits as ‘prasad’.

All day long, the women only take fruits and observe fasting and keep praying to the Goddess for the longevity for their husband. The grinding stone used in the house is wrapped in a fresh cloth after washing with scented holy water and offered only ripe mangoes, coconut, palm, banana, pineapple in prayer along with a branch of the banyan tree.

The Legend of Savitri and Satyavan

The Legend of Savitri and Satyavan

The Legend of Savitri and Satyavan

The story of Savitri and Satyavan occurs as a narrative in the Mahabharata recounted by the sage Markandeya on being questioned by Yudhistira if there was a woman in the world who matched the devotion of Draupadi.

Savitri was the beautiful daughter of king Aswapati of Madra Desa. She selected Satyavan, a prince in exile who was living in the forest with his blind father Dyumatsen, as her life’s partner even after being warned by the Lord Narada that the prince would not survive long. She left the palace and lived with her husband and the in-laws in the forest. As a devoted wife and daughter in-law she took all pains to take care of them.

On the ordained day, when the prince was scheduled to die, Savitri followed her husband to the forest. There while chopping firewood from a tree, he fell down and breathed his last on the lap of Savitri. Then appeared Yamraj, the death God to take away the soul of Satyavan from his body. Deeply hurt Savitri, pleaded to Yamraj not to be separated from her husband. If at all he would take away the soul of her husband she would also follow. Yamraj was taken aback at such a request and explained that it was impossible. Instead he wanted to grant three boons. Savitri cleverly asked for three boons and Yamraj, in haste, conceded to it. Savitri could regain the kingdom of her father-in-law by his first boon; get back the eyes of her in-laws by the second boon. The third boon was that she would be the mother of hundred sons and without a husband it was impossibility. Yamraj, being out witted and moved by the devotion of Savitri returned the life of her husband. Satyaban came to life again and both of them lived happily thereafter.