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Festivals of Odisha
There is no better evidence for this religio-spiritual yearning in its popular form than the string of festivals that is spread over the year. As has been said earlier, Orissa is a confluence of the Aryan, Dravidian and Adivasi cultures all of which by the quest of the numinous.

Pujas

The major Hindu festivals which have a national character are: Saraswati Puja, Ganesh Puja, Sivaratri, Janmastami, Durga Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja, Kartik Pjua, etc.


Durga Puja (September-October) symbolises the commemoration of good over evil. Life comes to a stand-still in the city of Cuttack as crowds pour over the Puja Mandaps to enjoy the festivities. On the day succeeding Vijaya Dasami, the last day of Dussera, the images are taken in a spectacular procession for immersion in the river Kathajodi.


Saraswati Puja is usually held in January-February and it is also known as Vasanta Panchami (fifth day of Spring) and it marks the end of Winter and advent of spring. Saraswati is the goddess of learning and as such this festival is celebrated most ardently by the school and college students to pray for success in their academic pursuits.   Thousands of clay idols are worshipped in the academic institutions, in public places and in homes. The next day the idols are taken in procession to rivers, ponds and seas and immersed. This immersion of idols is a common feature of all the festivals in which they are installed for worship. In some places the immersion cakes place on the 3rd, 5th or 7th day of the worship. 

Ganesh Puja (August-September) is also a festival of students mostly, but adults participate in it eagerly as tire god, son of Sival is the remover of all obstacles the path of success in ones endeavours. Ganesh has the head of an elephant supposed to have been grafted on his trunk after his head was destroyed by theevil look of the god Saturn. He is famed for his intellectual brilliance and so students are attracted to him to achieve similar powers.


Shiva Ratri (February) is one of the most prominent festivals of the Saivites in Orissa. Owing to the presence of a large number of temples of Siva, the festival is celebrated widely. It is also known as Jagara jatra which refers to the night-long vigil  kept  by  the  devotees,  especially   women,  to  have  their  desires  fulfilled.  In many places the celebration of the festival is marked by the organisation of fairs of different kinds. The most notable places for this festival are the Lokanath temple (Puri), Lingaraj temple (Bhubaneswar), Kapilas temple (Dhenkanal) and Nrusinghnath temple (Balangir).

Janmastami, tile birth day of Krishna, is another famous festival observed in the temple of Jagannath ill many temples and maths and also in household shrines. Devotees fast throughout the day and break it only after the symbolic birth of Krishna takes place al midnight. Krishnas birth heralds the hope for the destruction of the demon Kansa and so it becomes memorable as the eventual triumph of good over evil. EM Forster has immortalized this festival in A Passage to India.

How powerful is the cult of Shakti worship in Orissa, both in the Tantric and non-Tantric forms,   call  be realized  from   tile  festivals    or  Durga   Puja (September-October) and Kalipuja (October-November) which are celebrated with utmost solemnity, gaiety and eclat. The great Mother as the ten-handed Durga is believed to come down from her husbands home on Mount Kailash to her parents abode on the Himalayas every year for three days, tile 7th , 8th and 9th days of the bright fortnight in the month of of Aswina. There site is Parvati, the daughter of king of mountains, but in her incarnation as Durga she is worshipped as the destroyer of  the   buffalo-demon Mahisasura. In Orissa   richly decorated and   beautiful made images are installed all   over  the   state and the festival instils a spirit of holiness and sancity into the whole community so much so that people of other faiths participate in it with abundant warmth and sincerity. In Orissa the special feature of Durga Puja is that in the temples it soreads ovet sixteen days unlike on other parts of the country where it lasts for three to none days at most.

It  is  the  same  story in   regard   to  Kali  Puja which  is preceded  by   Lakshmi Puja on the full moon day after Durga Puja. Lakshmi Puja in public is celebrated in grandeur in places like Kendrapara and Dhenkanal but in the homes she is worshipped on that day for wealth and prosperity.

Kali Puja has another dimension in Orissa. Kali is the destroyer of time or Kala, she too is the goddess of death and destruction having her abode in the cremation grounds. But to the Shaktas she is Parambrahma swarupjni (identical with the Supreme Brahman), creator of the universe, its sustainer and ultimately its detroyer The Markandeya Purana, Devi Bhagavata, Kalika Purana and othrer books describe   her as the ultimate Mystery of the Universe. If she is the desroyer of Mahisasura (as  Durga),  Shumbha,   Nishumbha,  Chanda,   Munda,   Raklavirya,   she  is   also the  compassionate Mother. The two mudras in her right hands, abhaya (protection from fear) and vara (granting of boons) and the raised blood-smeared sword in one   her left hands with the freshly severed head of a demon dangling from the other hand, with three eyes standing for the sun, the moon and fire (Agni) make her a most complex symbol of love, compassion and terror. Like the Durga Puja, Puja is observed all over the stale though not to the same extent.

The Hindu festivals are numerous no doubt, but they do not diminish the importance of the festivals of the Muslims, Christians and Sikhs all of which are celebrated in Orissa in a spirit of camaraderie, almost unmatched elsewhere. Easter, Good Friday and Christmas; Id-ul-Fitre, Id-ul-Zolla and Muharram and Guru Nanaks birthday are observed by the respective communities with active public participation.

It is the contemplation of the beauty,  meaning and significance of these festivals both local and national, and the wide response evoked by them among the people that show how the stream of religion continues to flow as a subterranean in the collective life of the Oriya people. The significance becomes overwhelming when one thinks of the perils of dehumanization brought about by a mechanistic view of the universe supplemented by a technotronic culture.

CAR FESTIVAL (Ratha Yatra)

The most famous Orissan festival is of course the Ratha Yatra or Car Festival (June-July) which attracts pilgrims and visitors from all over the world. On the full moon day of the month of Jyestha known as snana Purnima, the idols of Jagannath, Balabhadra slid Subhadra are brought out and bathed on a pendal known as the snarlamandap according to religious rites. Then they are believed to become indisposed and are confined to a solitary abode for a fortnight where they undergo treatment, are offered special ayurvedic medicine boli and some special liquid diet called sarapana. Alter a rest of fifteen days on the second day of the lunar month huge chariots are pulled by thousands of people, irrespective of religion, caste or creed to proclaim their universality and accessibility, to humanity at large. The chariots are cleaned by the Gajapati Maharaja of purl with a golden broom to proclaim that he is the first of the Lords servants and on this particular day he performs the duty of a scavenger to demonstrate socialism in action and the dignity of labour. this act is connected with " famous incident in Orissan history in course of which the king Purushottama Deva was outwitted by his minister to marry the princess Padmavati. The deities then So to Gundichaghar where they stall for eight days at the end of \which the return car festival (Bahuda Yatra) takes place, One has only to see the vast sea of humanity on these occasions to convince oneself about the influence of religion on the people of Orissa for whom Jagannath is no other Supreme Brahman, without beginning and without end, and the saviour of mankind.

Konark Dance Festival

Described as a poem in stone, the Sun temple at Konark is the crowning glory of the temple architecture of Orissa. As a fitting tribute to the majestic monument, eminent classical dancers of India get together during the Konark Festival every year from 1st to 5th December to present live performances of their art. When the sun sets in the horizon and the stars appear in the sky, the open-air auditorium against the backdrop of the floodlit temple reverberates with the beats of Raga and Tala to fill the air. The classical extravaganza is a journey through ecstasy. The stage for the Konark Dance Festival 2001 was celebrated with a extravaganza of much admired Odissi, Bharatnatyam, Mohiniattam, Kathakali, Manipuri, Kathak and Chhow dances - a lavish feast for the eyes and ears.

Puri Beach Festival
The Puri Beach Festival is an out and out fun lovers fest. Conducted by the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Orissa (HRAO), the festival is a celebration of Orissa, in all its beauty, charm and fun-loving spirit. With events ranging from Fashion shows to rock shows, the Puri Beach festival delights visitors and locals alike. Held on the beautiful beach at Puri, it offers a unique opportunity  for visitors to interact with the local populace and enjoy the many splendoured charms of Orissa.

The Puri Beach Festival is co-sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, the Department of Tourism, Government of Orissa, Development Commissioner of Handicrafts and the Eastern Zonal Cultural Center, Calcutta.

Bali Yatra

To commemorate the glorious past of commercial voyages to the islands of Bali , Java and Sumatra by Orissan Traders , big fair called "bali Yatra" is held in Mahanadi River Bank at Cuttack on the full moon day of Kartik.


Dhanu Yatra

Dhanu Yatra relating to the episode of Lord Krishnas visit to Mathura  witness the ceremony of Bow is colourfully observed at Bargarh a western Orissa District. The town of Baragarh becomes Mathura ,the river  Jira becomes Yamuna , and village Amapalli on other bank of river becomes  Gopa. Different acts of Puranic descriptions are performed  in this festival.


Other Festivals
The Folk Tradition The festivals of the Adivasis are a part and parcel of their social life; they prepare a key to the appreciation of their beliefs in the supernatural spirits and their communal togetherness. The- same folk tradition and spirit are manifested through the numerous Vratas and Oshas, observed by the Hindus, the former having the authority of the scriptures and the latter being the product of social beliefs and practices, especially those observed by the women folk for the welfare and prosperity of their near and dear ones, for begetting sons, wishing long life of their children, recovery of their Own selves and their near and dear ones from ailments and obtaining salvation. They are associated: With the performance of rituals and recitation of a sacred verse tale connected with the occasion, usually elaborating the benefits accruing from the observance of the rites and punishments from the failure to do so. Most of these observances are marked by a spirit of sanctity even among the poorest folk. They clean up the premises, decorate their houses. Particularly the spot of worship with flowers and draw, in rice paste or multi-coloured powders, artistic designs on the floor and walls at the place.

Many of these festivals are held on the full moon and dark moon days thereby confirming the belief in the planets and stars as forces influencing human life.

The priests do not play ally part in the Vratas and Oshas; these are usually celebrated under the supervision and direction of women, which testifies to the simplicity, easy belief and tenderness characterising the folk or communal spirit. They help in augmenting the religious or spiritual life of the people enabling them to resist the temptations of the worldly spirit or materialistic way of life. The important Oshas are Jahni Osha, Bodhivamana Osha, Dutia Osha, Sasthi Osha, Khudurukuni Osha, Puajiuntia Osha, Kharkhari Osha, Dhananlanika Osha, Bhaijuntia, Nishamangalavarta Oshat and Kanjianala Osha. The important Vntiis are: Sudasa Vrata, Vinayaka Vrata, Rabinarayan Vrata, Sambaradasami Vrata, Somanath Vrata, Savitri Vrata, Nagarchuuthi and Ananta Vrata. Among them Puajuntia and Bhnijiolltia are observed: in the western region, Kharkhari in the southern region. Khudurukuni Osha which is observed by unmarried girls on the Sundays of the month of Bhadrab for the welfare of their brothers is observed in the coastal districts. Another Oriya Osha is  Prathamastami  the first  eighth   day  of the  month   of Margasira on which a rite is held .for the long-life and prosperity of the eldest child who is offered a lighted lamp ovation by the senior Female relatives, mother, aunt, grand mother, etc. followed by elaborate rituals during which the Glory of Mahalakshmi is recited. Raja is another special Oriya festival celebrated by girls with eclat, It is observed for three consecutive days from the day preceding Jyestha Sankrati to the day following it during which Mother Earth is supposed to be in her menstrual period; it is thus a fertility rite.

The girls decked in their sartorial best away in swings and pray to Mother Earth for their welfare. It is one of the moat memorable festivals of rural Orissa along with Kumara Purnima which is held on the full-moon night of the month of Aswin, soon after Durga Puja. The latter is also celebrated by girls for the well-being of their brothers and for obtaining handsome. husbands. Makar Sankranti and Vishuva Sankranti are observed to celebrate the advent of Spring and the New Year according to the Indian almanac respectively.

Like Makar which is observed by the Adivasis and the Hindus alike though in different styles, Chaitra Parva (Chait Parab) is a popular folk festival observed all  over  Orissa.   In western Orissa, the festival held in honour of Lord Siva is called Dandayatra. It is associated with a dance called dandanata commissioned by a household person with a wish, especially for a child. A group of 13 persons, led by their chief called pata bhoku, holding a danda or stick perform the dance. The stick symbolises Lord Siva as Ladudeswara (stick-shaped god). In the coastal region the festival held in honour of either Siva or Sakti is known as Jhamuyatra in which devotees perform penance like walking on fire or a bed of thorns.


Dola Purnima (Holi)

Dolapwnima or Holi is the most famous spring festival of India. Usually celebrated in March It has special properties in its celebration in Orissa where it is a five day affair, especially in the rural areas. The images of Krishna are worshipped form Dashami (10th day of the bright fortnight) to the full moon day. The images are taken in decorated vimans, small wooden temples, carried on the shoulders of bearers from house to house where offerings are made to them. After the tour of the village the vimanas from different villages are assembled in an open field and the time is spent in bhajana and kirtan. Jatras and palas are also held in the area. The day after the full moon day people throw coloured water on one another and smear each others faces with coloured powder (3bir). The festival is specially important for cattle owing to their association with the cowherd boy Krisllna. They are bathed, anointed with vermillion, garlanded and fed sumptuously. The festival is connected with the destruction of the demon Holikasura or the she-demon Holika by making a bonfire, for which the festival is called Holi.

Such Melanas or Fairs continue till the month of Chaitra in different places of the district of Cuttack, Puri and
Ganjam.


Chandan Yatra
This festival is generally famous in Puri but in other pars of Orissa this is also observed related to Lord Jagannath or Krishna. This Takes place in the month of Vaisaksha and continues for long 42 days. But, generally speaking it is a Festival of first 21 days only.The first period of 21 days is known as "Bahar Chandan"or outer Chandan. During this period,the representative images of Rama,Krushna, Madanmohan,Sridevi and Bhudevi are taken in a procession to Narendra tank.The images of Siva from 5 Siva Temples known as "Pancha Pandavas" also accompany them to the Narendra tank, At Narendra tank the images play in well decorated boats and are worshipped. The second period of 21 days known as "Bhitar Chandana" is celebrated inside the Temple. The rites observed on this period are not popularly enjoyed.

Snana Yatra  
This Festival takes places in the month of Jestha. it is popularly known as the Deba Snana Purnima.This is the first occasion in the course of a year when the deities Jagannath,Balabhadra,Subhadra along with Sudarsan and Madanmohan are brought out from the Temple and taken in procession to Snana Bedi located in the North East corner of the outer compound.The deities are bathed there with 108 pitchers of water drawn from a well near the Northern Gate. Here,Jagannath and Balabhadra are dressed like Lord Ganesh of the Purans with the head of an elephant

 

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