TRADITIONAL PEOPLES FESTIVAL OF ORISSA
FESTIVAL / OSA
DAY / DATE
RADHA DAMODHAR PUGA
JANMA DUTIYA (BHAIJIUNTIA)
DAMANAKA (CHITRA SUKLA)
CHITI GHODA (BAALI PUJA)
MANABASA GURUBARA (LAXMI PUJA)
KANJEE AMLA OSA
DANDA PANHARA OSA
NAGALA CHAUTHI BRATA
DHANA MANIKA GURUBARA OSA
NITYANI GURUBARA OSA
NISSA MANGALABARA OSA
CHATURDASI, BUDHEI OSA
BALI TRUTIYA BRATA
TOKI PARABA ( a Kondha Tradition)
ANY GOOD DAY
MAA MAHA LAXMI
BIRTHDAY OF BASUDEV
BIRTHDAY OF BALABHADRA
LORD ANANTA DEV
In India the months and years are counted on the basis of lunar or solar movements. According to the solar system the month is counted from Sankranti to Sankranti and in lunar system it is counted from Purnima (Full-moon) to Purnima. Visuva Sankranti is the first day of the month of Baisakh as well as the solar year. This is also called Mahavisuva Sankranti or Jala Visuva Sankranti, in northern India it is called Ala Sankranti, in southern India Sakkar Pongal and in Orissa it is known as Pana Sankranti, named after Pana, the main drink offering specially prepared on this occasion.
There are specific reasons as to why the Visuva Sankranti is considered as the first day of the solar year. It is only on two occasions i.e. Mesha Sankranti and Tula Sankranti that the Sun fully rests on the equator and on these two dates the length of days and nights remain equal. After Mesha Sankranti the Sun moves in the northern direction to our side as our country is situated to the north of the equator. It is, therefore, from this day of first movement of the Sun from Mesha Sankranti that the new year is counted. All over the country this day is considered auspicious and is celebrated with social, cultural and religious performances.
In Bhabisya Purana, this festival has been mentioned as Jala Sankranti. According to tradition when Bhisma, the grand-father of Kurus and the Pandavas lay on the bed of arrows (Shara Sajya) he felt thirsty and there was no water nearby in the ravaged battle-field of Kurukshetra. Then Arjuna with his powerful bow thrusted an arrow deep into the ground and water immediately shooted out in a stream to quench the thirst of the dying warrior. Out of contentment and compassion Bhisma conferred to Judhisthira, "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 rite.
In Orissa, this festival is observed with great sanctity in various forms. On this day Chhatu (grinded corn powder), Pana (sweet water), umbrellas fans (made out of palm-leaves or bamboo-strips) and Paduka (wooden slippers) are offered to Brahmins and the poor people. All these are the remedies for the scorching Sun. Water as the vital source of life becomes more sumbolical in another ritual of the festival. Above the Tulasi plant which is a must in every Hindu household of Orissa, a shed is prepared with water is suspended with a rope hanger. Beneath it a small piece of straw is fixed to a hole in the pitcher through which water is drained drop by drop on the Tulasi plant. This is called 'Basudhara' (the stream of the earth). Here, Tulasi plant symbolises the human life and it is to be saved from the scorching sun by resting in the shed and taking enough water.
This festival is observed widely in some form or other, in the coastal areas and in some towns and villages of other areas a rigorous ritualistic observance is observed. 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 Visuva Sankranti and make a grand finale of the whole celebration.
Most of the festivals prevalent among the low-caste Hindus are either associated with the worship of Shakti or Shiva. It is believed to have grown out of the mass religious culture of the people under the spell of Tantrism in the remote past. One such festival is Hingula Yatra or Patua Yatra. There is a popular belief among the local people that on this day of Visuva Samkranti Goddess Hingula appears and propitiation to Her removes all evil forces. She is worshipped in the village street on Her imaginary stride to the village. Offering to Her includes spitted new cloth, Pana (sweet-water), butter lamp and green mangoes.
In remote villages this festival is observed with much austerity. Those who observe fasting, especially women are called 'Osati' Prior to the day of worship the fasting worshippers (mostly men) move from village to village with the sacred pitcher symbolising the Goddess. Their religious procession is always accompanied by singing and dancing. These worshippers are called Patua. The man who dances with the holy-pitcher on his head wears a black skrit, a red blouse and a long piece of black cloth tightly covering the head and having equal length on both sides to flow. While dancing, the Patua holds the ends of the cloth and moves them artistically with streched arms in perfect harmony to the rhythmic pattern. Sometimes he dances on the stilts and performs diffucult Yogasanas balancing on the head, the staff that holds the holy-pitcher (Ghata). A big brass bell played with a cane-stick provides various peculiar rhythms. Sometimes country drums are also played.
The head of the patuas is called Bada-Patua or Katha Patua. All the Patuas observe fasting on this day. In the afternoon they assemble near a tank or river where all the rituals take place. The priest performing the rites is always a non-brahmin known as 'Jadua' or 'Dehuri'. During the rituals men, women and children of the villages congregate. The surrounding reverbarates with auspicious 'Hulahuli' (a shrill sound made by wagging the tongue inside the mouth) and 'Hari Bol' cheers of men. Then, sharp iron hooks are pierced through the skins on the back of the Patuas. During this ceremony the morale of the Patuas are boosted through holy cheers of the onlookers and they themselves loudly continue singing in praise of Hingula or Mangala.
In some areas Jhamu Yatra is organised. Persons observing Brata or vow in honour of the deity walk on thorns and on the bed of live charcoal amidst holy cheers and loud drumming. Those who walk on fire are known as Nian Patua(Nian for fire) and those on thorns are called Kanta Patua (Kanta for thorn). Some worshippers stand on edged swords and are carried on open palanquins. They are called Khanda Patua (Khanda for sword). Some of them show some feats in deep water. They are called Pani Patua (Pani for water). Especially all these festivals are celebrated near a Shiva or Shakti Shrine. Therefore, scholars are of opinion that these rituals of inflicting injury to their persons by the devotees are related to the Tantra culture. By doing these they try to draw the kind attention of the God or Goddess whom they seek to propitiate.
Uda parab :-
In some areas, especially in Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts of Orissa a flying festival popularly known as Uda Parab' is observed. The participating devotees of this festival are called Bhokta or Bhakta. As in similar other festivals, almost all the devotees belong to the low-caste Hindus.
In a village field a long staff is fixed horizontally on a perpendicular pole. The Bhoktas, after having ceremonial bath and following other rituals in a nearby river, move dancing in a procession to this place accompanied by a cheering crowd and loud beating of drums. There a huge congregation enthusiastically awaits their arrival. Then, one by one, they tied to the horizontal staff with a long cloth at the shoulders. Ankle-bells are fitted on their feet. Some devotees are not tied. They simply hold the staff in one hand and move hanging. With the help of a rope fixed to the perpendicular staff they are moved round and round by a person below. Profusely garlanded, the Bhokta flying at a height throws, flowers from his garlands and green mangoes to the onlooking audience below, who collect them with great enthusiasm as precious possession. After this ceremony the Bhoktas go to the nearby temple and offer offering prayers to Shiva, Hingula, Mangala, retire.
In the month of Chaitra there is an exclusive festival for the bonafide fishermen community of Orissa who are popularly known as Keuta (Kaivarta). This festival is held for a full month beginning from Chaitra Purnami (Full-moon of Chaitra in March) and ending with Baisakh Purnami (Full moon in April). During this festival Baseli, the horse-headed deity of the community is propitiated. She is considered to be the tutelar deity of the community. She may be considered as a form of Mother Goddess who was earlier formless. Latter she took various forms according to the conception and needs of the various communtiteis living all over the country.
By 5th-6th century A.D., the worship of Shakti had gained tremendous prominence in Orissa. One of the four celebrated Peethas (Centres) of Buddhist Tantricism in India was located in Orissa. The Peethas had not only the support of a number of Sadhakas to go ahead with their spiritual pursuits but also gave an impetus to the people in general to appreciate the Tantric practices. Rigorous religious practices involved in the Tantric way of worship became wide-spread.
It is believed that this festival organised during. 10-11th centuries when Hindu Tantra and Buddha Tantra merged into one. Baseli is one of the various deities of Tantra culture which evolved during this period. The horse headed deity is seated on an earthen platform. She wears a blood-red cloth in her full feminine form. In temples and places of worship She is propitiated on each Saturdays and Tuesdays through out the year. During the festival period where there are no such images; only the horse head made out of wood is worshipped. Peculiarly the worshipping takes place in a particular place of the house and that is Dhinkisala (the place where paddy is husked). It is because, the subsidiary profession of the community is to prepare and sell flattened rice. (chuda).
Worship of Baseli or Basuli and the Dummy-horse dance inexplicably connected with its rituals and celebrations is the most important festival of the fishermen who observe it with great devotaion and austerity. The details for the worship have been enunciated in 'Kalibarta Gupta Geeta' by Achyutananda Das, a mystic Oriya poet of 15th century A.D. Various legends prevail about the birth of the community and their tutelar deity and this particular text records one. According to this Geeta, when the world was in a deluge Vishnu Bhagwan could not find a place to rest. So, He by his spiritual power reduced his form and rested on a floating Banyan leaf. As it was all the while dwindling on the stormy waves of the ocean. He created a man out of the dirt of His ear-zone and asked him to hold the leaf still with the help of a row (kandiara). But, soon he fell into deep slumber. In the meantime a huge demoniac fish Raghab swallowed the man. Again the leaf began dwindling and God's sleep was disturbed. To his utter surprise he found the man missing. By intuition. He could know everything and at once killed the Raghaba and got the man out. Then God transformed the banyan leaf in to a horse. He summoned Biswakarma and asked him to build a boat immediately. Then he said to the man' 'Hence-forward you and your community will be known as Kalibarta and you would be the king among them. Go to the country of Simhala and rule there happily. Make this horse your carrier and use this boat for trading. As you were swallowed and almost got killed by a fish, generation by generation you would kill the species and live on them." Baseli, became the name of the horse and God asked the man to worship him as his tutelar deity on the full-moon day of Chaitra. Since then the tradition is followed.
The Dasa king sailed to Simhala with the horse by boat. There he ruled for many year's. The horse died at the age of one lakh years and out of his carcass came out a damsel as beautiful as Lakshmi. She approached the king and lamented that no longer the name of Baseli would be associated with her. Taken by surprise the king was terrified. He then prayed Vishnu for his counsel. The God again directed, "This woman will be known hence-forwarded as Aswini Baseli whom you would propitiate for generations. Then only you can attain Baikuntha" Since then the woman became Goddess Baseli with a horse-head and continued to be venerated by the fishing community.
Another legend is associated with the worship of the horse-head and the horse-headed deity. It is said that after the death of Baseli, the sacred horse. God distributed his limbs among fishermen, confectioners (Gudia), oil-merchants (Teli) and cobblers (Mochi). They continued to worship the limbs. Some time after an idea struck to them. All of them agreed to assemble the limbs and have the full form of the deity (horse) and worship him commonly. This was done. At one time the Kaibartas and the Gudias vied with each other. A communal riot ensued. Gudias being rich and powerful locked the deity in a house and deprived the Kaibartas from worship. The helpless Kaibartas simply prayed the deity with utmost devotion for his return. Moved by the prayers of the Kaibartas he crushed the wall with the force of his hoofs and escaped to their camp. Being enraged the Gudias chopped of his head and even then, the head lived to accept worship and offerings from the Kaibartas. It is, therefore, the Kaibartas who worship the horse-head separately.
Inexplicably connected with the festival is dummy-horse dance of the community. On the auspicious day of Chaitra Purnami, the Kaibartas worship a Bamboo with vermillion, sandle-paste, butter-lamp etc. Then the bamboo is split ceremonially into pieces out of which only twelve are taken out for preparation of the frame of the dummy-horse. The frame is dyed red with red clay and then covered with a Pata (indigenous silk cloth). Then a painted horse-head made out of wood is fixed to the frame. A garland of Mandara (Hibiscus) flowers is placed on the neck during worship. This particular garland is always intended for mother goddess. Thus the dummy-horse is worshipped till the eighth day of the dark fort-night after which it is taken out for dance. A man enters the cavity and hangs the frame on the shoulders and then dances to the rhythm of Dhol (country drum) Mahuri is the only wind-instrument played during the dance. Songs are sung intermittently in votive dedication to the deity. Sometimes the dancer gets possessed and falls in to trance. Then somebody else replaces him. Two other characters Chadhua-Chadhuani or Rauta-Rautani also sing and dance. The male character dances with a long staff in his hand symbolising the profession of fishermen's rowing of boats. The female character is played by a man. Both of them sing songs of love and daily household cares. Then a song combat ensues which lasts for the whole night. During this portion of the dance the dummy horse is ceremonially placed in the centre and the performance is held in front of it, peop's sitting all around.
There are regular amateur as well as professional groups for this dance. They perform on payment. Sometimes they move dancing from door to door and collect money. There are five to seven persons in all in a group including dancers and musicians. They continue to dance till Baisakh Purnami when they make a grand finale and then part for the next season.
Now a-days the votive dancers are not confined only to the Kaibarta community. Since the dummy-horse dance is attached to many Shakti shrines of Orissa also, people of other communities have also taken interest to join the votive dancers.
The dummy-horse dance is mainly prevalent in the coastal districts of Cuttack and Puri. In Puri the dummy-horse are profusely decorated with flowers and the 'Tahia' (Archaic head-gear of flowers) presents a magnificent show during dance. When the festival ends the horse-head is taken out ceremonially from the frame and is preserved in a temple. Next year during the festival it is again brought out and repainted for worship and use during the dance.
This is exclusively an agricultural festival held on the third day of the Hindu year. On this day the farmer ceremonially starts sowing seeds in the field, especially paddy. Early in the morning, farmers in their respective homes arrange the materials for the ritual. After taking ablution in a river or tank they wear new cloths and carry the seeds in new baskets. In the field offerings are made to Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth which the farmers do it themselves. Then they sow seeds ceremonially praying the Goddess for a rich bumper crop. In western Orissa this festival is called 'Muthi Chhuan'. Eating of green-leaves (Shag) is forbidden for the day. It is observed by all farmers irrespective of caste and creed.
The famous Chandan Yatra of Lord Jagannath which is observed in various other shrines of Orissa starts from this day. Moreover, from this auspicious day the carpenters start building the cars (Ratha) of Lord Jagannath, Balavadra and Subhadra.
On this day women also worship 'Sasthi Debi' popularly called 'Sathi Duchhei'. The Goddess is said to be the guardian of children. She has also the power to bestow the women with children. Therefore, she is propitiated with great devotion.
Religious scriptures testify that Ganga, the sacred river of India landed on the Earth on this day from Heaven. She is the perennial source of water which is the need for agriculture. Therefore, this auspicious day was chosen to start sowing seeds.
Chandan Yatra marks the conclusion of the cycle of religious festivals observed in the famous shrine of Lord Jagannath at Puri followed by similar other shrines of Orissa. The festival, starting from Akshya Trutiya, lasts for twenty one days and is held in the month of Baisakh at the height of the summer heat when Chandan (sandle-paste) and water are essential to keep people cool. As the Hindu deities are modelleed on the behaviour of human beings, they are also given the same treatment. During this festival tehy are taken out of the temples in procession for perambulation in water on floats or boats. The richly decorated boats are called 'Chapa'. 'Chapa' is the Oriya equivalent of 'float' marks the conclusion of the prime annual festival and it is celebrated with much pomp and eclat. The belief probably is that deity having concluded his ceremonial per ambulation with all attendant paraphernalia on land, must have his aquatic sojourn before. He returns to the sanctum of the temple to come out only for the next festival.
This festival is most elaborate in Puri and attracts thousands of piligrims from far and near. On all the twenty one days the entire road from the shrine of Lord Jagannath leading up to the Narendra Sarobar (a sacred tank in Puri town) along with the housees on both sides is decorated. At some places, especially in front of Maths or at cross-roads big toranas (arches) are erected where the idols take casual rest and receive offerings. The representative images of the deities installed in temples such as Madanmohan (representing Lord Jagannath), Laxmi and Saraswati are taken in a richly decorated palanquin by the sevakas accompanied by priests, musicians and dancers to the Narendra Sarobar at night. The tank is profusely lighted with thousands of spectators milling and jostling all around in expectation of the arrival of the procession. The principal deities are also followed by different deities shrines of the town. After reaching the Narendra Sarobar, the images are taken placed on different well decorated boats and they are rowed for a long time by the Sevakas. During the rowing ceremony Devadasis (temple-dancers) dance and sing on the boat.
Generally, the colours chosen for the boats are red and white and they are so designed to look like huge swans floating on water. The peculiarity of the ceremony is that Madanmohan with Laxmi and Saraswati rides on the white coloured raft where-as Ramakrishna with pancha Shivas rides the red one. All the deities on the boat take several rounds in the water which continue till early hours of the morning and then retire to the respective shrines. The last day of the festival is called Bhaunri (Bhramari or circle) when special elaborate arrangements are made.
Most of the important festivals of Lord Jagannath at Puri are also followed in all other important shrines of Orissa. Following tradition of the Puri the images are taken out in procession on planquins to the nearby tanks and perambulated in water on boats. In all such temples it is observed only for the last three days. After the ceremony which usually takes place at mid-night, people enjoy performance of dance, drama and music specially arranged for this occasion.
At Bhubaneswar the Chandan festival of Lord Lingaraj is observed in Bindu Sarobar, a huge tank near the temple. Here, the float is moved to the Mandapa in the middle of the tank. The mandap is an inlet-like structure which is more an elevated platform.
This particular festival strictly prevalent among the Brahmins of Orissa is generally observed in Brahmin villages, popularly known as Sasans or in towns where Brahmins are more in number.
It is believed that Shiva or Hara became furious after Jagara Amavasya and He was cooled down only by marriage with Parvati. So, this marriage festival of Shiva and Parvati is called Sital (cool) Shasthi and is held on the sixth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Jyestha.
Since the days of yore Orissa has been a seat of Shaivism. Only Bhubaneswar has about five hundred Shiva temples dating back from 6th-7th century A.D. . In the early temples of Bharateswar and Parsurameswar there are elaborate scenes of Shiva's marriage with Parvati. It is, therefore, believed that this festival of Shiva's marriage is very ancient and is being carried down through centuries past.
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 bride-groom (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 Jagannath), coconut, betelnut, and a piece of new cloth as prevalent in marriage customs. With him goes a procession of torch-bearers, 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 cross-roads and important places the procession halts and there is lavish display of fire-works, dancing, drumming and various other kinds of merry-making.
Though this festival is held in the temples of Loknath at Puri, Lingaraj at Bhubaneswar and in most of the important Brahmin villages, it is observed in a grand scale at Sambalpur where two groups of Brahmins exhibit rare enthusiasm to organise it with keen competitive spirit. During the procession lavishly decorated tableus are brought out. Traditional and local dance and music parties are engaged to move with the procession. Varieties of fire works are displayed. Each group tries its utmost to excel the other in every respect. The procession terminates at the respective temples and the festival ends.
On this day the town of Sambalpur wears a festive look. Thousands of people congregate from different parts of the district to witness the deities in procession. In the Puranas it has been said that one is expiated of all sins if he sees the Gods in procession. Therefore, there is a natural attraction for the common villagers to see the mounted deities in procession.
The Amavasya (last day of the dark fort-night) in the month of Jyestha is known as Savitri Amavasya or Savitri Brata. This day is most auspicious for the married Hindu women with husbands alive. They observe it as a vow with great devotion and pray for the long life of their husbands.
The Brata has been named after Savitri in Mahabharata and other puranas the romantic episode of Savitri-Satyaban has been elaborately narrated with ideological veneration. Savitri was the beautiful daughter of king Aswapati of Madra Desa. She was unparallel both in virtue and beauty. As a suitable groom couldn't be found out, her father gave her complete freedom to choose her own partner in life. With a band of veteran ministers she travelled many countries and religious centres in search of a suitable partner, but couldn't find one of her choice. While returning desperately a handsome young man caught her eyes. He was engaged in cutting wood in a jungle. The young man was no other than Satyaban, a prince in exile who was living in the forest with his blind father Dyumatsen. Savitri selected him as her determination and ultimately married him. 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 paints to take care of them.
Gradually the ordained time for the death of Satyaban drew near. One day while cutting wood in the jungle his head reeled and he got down from the tree and then expired on the lap of his beloved wife Savitri. Then appeared Yamraj, the death God to take away the soul, of Satyaban from his body. Savitri, deeply hurt 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 boon 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 an impossiblity. As a Sati, she can't take another husband Yamraj, being out witled 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.
In deep regards to Savitri all Hindu women observe this festival worshipping and propitiating her as a Devi. The morale of the festival is to teach the women to be virtous devotional and painstaking like Savitri to make worldly life happy and peaceful.
In the early morning the women take purificatory bath and wear-new cloths, new bangles and apply vermillion on the fore-head and the hair-parting line. Images of Savitri are never made. The grinding stone (sila-pua) is represented as Savitri and worshipped. Wet pulses and rice, mango, jacket fruit, lemon , banana and several other fruits are offered as Bhoga (offering). After observing fasting for the whole day they simply take the Bhoga. In the afternoon when all formalities of worship are over they bow low to their respective husbands and elderly people.
This is exclusively a festival of Lord Jagannath and is said to be one of the oldest. According to Skanda Purana when Raja Indradyumna installed the wooden deities he arranged this bathing ceremony. This day is considered to be the birth-day of Lord Jagannath. Held in the full-moon day of the month of Jyestha this festival is also simultaneously held in all other important shrines of Orissa. However the festival being most elaborate and important at Puri, it attracts thousands of visitors and piligrims from all over the country.
'Niladri Mohadaya', a religious text written in Orissa records the rituals of the festival. Sriharsa in his 'naisadhiya Charita' also refers to this festival of Purusottama. This bathing ceremony has a speciality. As this festival does not find mention in the early religious texts, it is believed to be a tribal ceremony which later crept into the Hindu rites. Jagannath in its early from was being worshipped as Nilamadhaba by a Savara chief called Viswabasu. Till now it is the Daitas and Savaras (tribals) who have the exclusive right to conduct the festival. The tribals called Saoras (of southern Orissa) still perform a rite to bath their deities ceremonially on the last day of the month of Jyestha. For this they collect water from remote Jungles where it remains untouched even by the shadow of the animals. Most probably when Jagannath was a Savara God, this festival of the Savaras who tended him was accepted by the Hindus.
On the previous day of Snana Yatra the images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra along with the image if Sudarshana are ceremonially brought out from the sanctum in a procession to the Snana-vedi (Bathing pandal). This special pandal in the temple precinct of Puri is called Snana Mandap. It is at such a height that visitors standing outside the temple also gate a glimpage of the deities. After MangalaAlati, the Suaras and Mahasuaras go in a ceremonial procession to fetch, water from Suna Kua (Golden well) in one hundred and thirty, vessels of copper. All of them cover their mouths with a piece of cloth. Then all the vessels filled with water are preserved in the Bhoga Mandap. The Palla pandas (a class of Brahmin priests) then purify the water with Haridra, Jaba, Benachera, Chandan, Aguru, flowers, perfumes and medicinal herbs.
On the fourteenth day (Chaturdashi) when the idols are taken out in procession, the whole process is called Pahandi or Pahandi vijay. Scholars have given different interpretations of the term ('Pahandi') Some opine that it has been derived from the term 'Praspanda' meaning movement. Some others are inclined to interpret it as a derivation from Pandya vijaya. For the festival the Snana Vedi is well decorated with traditional paintings of trees and gardens. Flags and toranas (arches) are also put up. The images are profusely decorated with flowers. All kinds of perfumes such as Dhupa, Aguru etc. are then offered. As the 'Pahandi' of the deities takes place to the accompaniment of music and beating of various indigenous drums. Thousands of devotees jostle and crave for a look at the deities in procession.
The bathing festival takes place during the morning hours of the Purnima. The filled vessels are carried from Bhoga Mandap to the Snana Vedi by the Suaras in a long single-line procession. This ritual is called 'Jaladhibasa' prior to the bathing ceremony the images are covered with silken cloths and then smeared with red powder. Then water is poured, the rituals performed and 'Pavamana' hymns chanted. After the bath the deities are so dressed that together they appear like the image of Ganesha. This is called Ganeshabesa. It is said that a staunch devotee of Lord Ganesha and himself a profound scholar visited Puri during Snana Yatra. He was amply rewarded by the king of Orissa for his scholarship. The king asked the scholar to accompany him to see Lord Jagannath which he refused under the pretext that he wouldn't worship any God other than Ganesh. Somehow he was persuaded and brought before the Snana vedi. To the utter surprise of all. Lord Jagannath appeared as Ganesha. Since then during Snana Yatra when the sacred bath is performed. The deities are dressed like Ganesha. Various other legends are also told and reason assigned explaining the Ganesha besa.
During the sacred bath the colours painted on the images generally fade. Seeing the wooden deities in discolour devotees may not have the appropriate devotional attitude and in fact may feel sinful repugnance. For this reason, the images are immediately dressed as Ganesha in which they remain mostly covered.
After the Snana Yatra, the images are kept away from public view for fifteen days and during all these days the daily rites of the temple remain suspended. The images are kept on the Ratna vedi inside the temple. This period is called 'Anabasara' meaning improper time for worship. It has been said earlier that the images are discoloured as a result of the sacred bath. During these fifteen days the Daitas (descendants of Viswavasu, the Savara) repaint the images is divided into seven short periods, each of two days duration, and a short period of one day set apart to give finishing touches. Thus the period covers the whole fortnight. On the 16th day the images in their new forms after renovation become ready for the public view. The festival of the first appearance of the lord Jagannath to his devotees is called Netrotsaba of Nava Yaubana (new youth). According to popular belief the devotee washes away all his sins if he gets a vision of the Lord on this day. On this occasion, therefore, great rush of people occurs in the temple.
The Shilpa Sastra and Agamas testify that the images become suitable for worship only after the performance of the rite of 'Chakshyu Unmilana' (Opening of the eyes). During 'Anabasara', the Daitas offer to the deities only fruits and water mixed with cheese. According to them during this time the deities don't keep well and therefore, take rest. Like human beings they are considered to have fallen ill and are treated by the Raj Vaidya or the king's physician with specific medicines.
The temple-festivals which are held in a bigger and elaborate scale in the important shrines of Puri and Bhubaneswar are also held simultaneously in all other small shrines of the respective deities, through in modest scales. Likewise the Snana Yatra is held in many other temples of Orissa.
Raja Sankranti or Mithuna Sankranti is the first day of the month of Asara (June-July) from which the season of rains starts. It inaugurates and welcomes the agricultural year all over Orissa which marks, through biological symbolism, the moistening of the summer parched soil with the first showers of the monsoon, thus making it readdy for productivity. To celebrate the advent of monsoon, the joyous festival is arranged for three days by the villagers. Though celebrated all over the state it is more enthusiastically observed in the districts of Cuttack, Puri and Balasore. The first day is called Pahili Raja (Prior Raja), second is Raja (Proper Raja) and third is Basi Raja (Past Raja).
According to popular belief as women menstruate, which is a sing of fertility, so also Mother Earth menstruates. So all three days of the festival are considered to be the menstruating period of Mother Earth. During the festival all agricultural operations remain suspended. As in Hindu homes menstruating women remain secluded because of impurity and do not even touch anything and are given full rest, so also the Mother Earth is given full rest for three days for which all agricultural operations are stopped. Significantly, it is a festival of the unmarried girls, the potential mothers. They all observe the restrictions prescribed for a menstruating woman. The very first day, they rise before dawn, do their coiffeur, annoint their bodies with turmeric paste and oil and then take the purificatory bath in a river or tank. Peculiarly, bathing for the rest two days is prohibited. They don't walk bare-foot do not scratch the earth, do not grind, do not tear anything apart, do not cut and do not cook. During all the three consecutive days they are seen in the best of dresses and decorations, eating cakes and rich food at the houses of friends and relatives, spending long cheery hours, moving up and down on improvised swings, rending the village sky with their merry impromptu songs. The swings are of different varieties so such as Ram Doli, Charki Doli, Pata Doli, Dandi Doli etc. Songs specially meant for the festival speak of love, affection, respect, social behaviour and everything of social order that comes to the minds of the singers. Through anonymous and composed extempore, much of these songs, through seer beauty of diction and sentiment, have earned permanence and have gone to make the very substratum of Orissa's folk-poetry.
"While girls thus scatter beauty, grace and music all around, moving up and down on the swings during the festival, young men give themselves to strenuous games and good food, on the eve of the onset of the monsoons which will not give them even a moments respite for practically four months making them one with mud, slush and relentless showers, their spirits keep high with only the hopes of a good harvest." As all agricultural activities remain suspended and a joyous atmosphere pervades, the young men of the village keep themselves busy in various types of country games, the most favourite being kabadi. Competitions are also held between different groups of villages. All nights 'Yatra' performances or 'Gotipua' dances are arranged in prosperous villages where they can afford the professional groups. Plays and other kinds of entertainment are also arranged by enthusiastic amateurs.
The special variety of cake prepared out of recipes like rice-powder, molasses, coconut, camphor, ghee etc. goes in the name of Poda Pitha (burnt cake). The size of the cake varies according to the number of family members. Cakes are also exchanged among relatives and friends. Young girls do not take rice during the three-days festival and sustain only with this type of cake, fried-rice (mudi) and vegetable curry.
Ratha Yatra or the Car festival of Lord Jagannath at Puri is best known in the world as the biggest festival of its kind. It is observed on the Asadha Shukla Dwitya i.e. on the second day of the bright fortnight of the month of Asadha (June-July). This annual festival at the first break of monsoon is the most ancient, most elaborate, biggest and the costliest festival of Lord Jagannath, who is believed to be the richest deity of the world. Millions of Hindus flock to the holy city of Puri to see the Gods in procession which is beliurd to expiate them from all sins.
The celebration of Ratha Yatra during the rainy season is significant. Scholars opine that the term 'Varsha' (Year) has been literally derived from the term 'Varsa' (rain) and this prolific rainy season leads and represents all the seasons of the year. Rain appears to be the harbinger of hilarity and vitality to the human race and therefore, rainy season has been selected as the appropriate occasion for celebration of the festival.
In 'Satapatha Brahmana', the rainy season has been highly admired. In the said text an interesting legend has been narrated regarding the origin of Ratha. The Ratha of the car of the god was in heaven since ages past. It was never to be noticed on earth. Once there was a terrific battle between Indra, the king of the God and the demon Brutrasura. Seated on the chariot, when Indra violently flung the weapon of lightening (vajra) right to the chest of the demon, it broke to four pieces and the third piece was metamorphosed into a chariot (Ratha). Indra is also taken to be the God of rains and thunder. As the car is supposed to have been created out of his weapon, the car-festival at the beginning of the rainy season is mythically significant. Keeping aside the mythical account, historians and scholars propound various theories about how and when it came about, though the origin of this festival is still shrounded in mystry.
Ratha Yatra is also locally known as 'Gundicha Yatra'. Gundicha was the mythical queen of Indradyumna who founded the great shrine and installed the deities. It is said that the images of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra were first built by Biswakarma, the master-crafts man of the heaven who appeared as an old carpenter. The images were carved out of logs in a smaller shrine now known as Gundicha temple. They were then ceremonially brought in a procession and ceremonially installed in the main shrine. Since those days, the images make an annual sojourn to the Gundicha temple where they were originally given form and the car-festival is said to be that ancient.
Some scholars are of opinion that the Ratha Yatra originated as a festival of Buddhists which was later adopted by the Hindus. They claim that the present temple of Lord Jagannath stands on the site of Buddhist temple and contains the celebrated tooth of Buddha, which was kept there till the 4th century A.D.. The Buddhists By their mass religious culture almost swayed back the cult of Brahmans into oblivion. They used to hold a car-festival, once in every five years to propagate their religion. A huge image of Buddha, built out of log and in whose naval zone the tooth relic was placed, used to be taken out in procession on a Rather or car. When Brahmans was re-established through the ardent efforts of Sankaracharya, the Hindus accepted Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu and the car-festival of the Buddhists was converted to an annual festival of Jagannath, Buddhism exercised deeper influence on Hinduism. The casteless society propagated by the religion was also adopted in the temple of Jagannath. Thus, Lord Jagannath is regarded as an incarnation of Buddha.
The Jainas identify Lord Jagannath as a form of 'Jeena' and they claim that the Rather Eater is reminiscent of their ancient festival. History proves that Ashoka, the emperor of Magadha, after his eventful Kalinga war, carried away with him the 'Kalinga Jeena' or 'Adi Jagannath' as a war-trophy. This was later restored by Kharavela, the mighty emperor of Kalinga. The 'Kalinga Jeena' was brought in a car followed by a pompous parade of pageantry. This Ratha Yatra of the "Jeena' was later adopted by the Hindus in the temple of Lord Jagannath.
In the festival each year three new cars are built for the three deities Balabhadra, Subhadra and Jagannath. For building of the new cars, the logs were hereditarily supplied by the Rajah of Daspalla (Now the Govt. of Orissa). The construction of the Rathas starts from 'Akshaya Trutiya' with a 'Vanajaga' ceremony. Each car has its own specifications.
The car of the Lord jagannath is known as 'Nandighosa' . Supported on sixteen giant wheels, each seven feet in diameter, it stands forty five feet in height and is beautifully painted in yellow. 'Taladhwaja, is the name of Balabhadra's car which stands forty four feet in height and stands on fourteen wheels. It is painted in blue. Subhadra's car is known as 'Darpadalana', Devidalana' or simply 'Deviratha' which stands fourty three feet in height and is painted in dark red. The colours for the cars are significantly identical with the colour of robes worn by the deites. Lord Jagannath is 'Pitambara' or robed in yellow, Balabhadra is 'Neelambara' or robed in blue and Subhadra, a mother-goddess wears garments of blood-red (Raktambari).
When the Rathas are ready they are brought to the sinhadwara or the Lion's gate of the temple. On the beginning day of the festival, after the morning rituals are over in the temple, the deities are brought one by one from the temple to the chariots. All the deities are profusely decorated with crowns of flower (Tahia) and are brought by the Pandas on the twenty two steps in a peculiar kind of swaying movement. The first deity to come out is Balabhadra, then Subhadra and lastly the Lord Jagannath. They are all installed on the respective chariots. The whole process of bringing out the deities from the temple and placing them on the chariots is known as 'Pahundi'.
The cars do not move immediately after the installation of the deities. The Rajah of Puri, who is popularly revered as the 'Chalanti Vishnu' (Moving Vishnu) comes in a palanquin, pays his homage to the deities and then sweeps the platform of each of the cars in a golden broom. This process of the festival is known as 'Chhera Pahanra'. After this part of the ritual, a large number of percussionists (drummers and gong players) play in unison and the sound rends into the air. Then comes the most auspicious moment for the thousands of anxious pilgrims to pull the cars which they consider to be most sacred. With great enthusiasm they grab the huge ropes and begin to pull the cars. The cars grind forward slowly along the road till the journey ends at Gundicha temple. Balabhadra being the eldest in the family of the deities. His car is drawn first. Then follows the car majestically moves the car of Lord Jagannath.
All the deities are then taken to the Gundicha temple where they stay for over a week. Then again they make their return trip to the main shrine. The return-festival is known as Bahuda Yatra, or the return-journey which falls on the tenth day of the month. All the cars are drawn again to the front of the main shrine and the deities remain seated for the next day; the Ekadasi on which all of them are adorned with pure gold ornaments. This part of the ritual is known as 'Sunabesa'.
An interesting ritual is observed on the return of the deities to the main shrine. Goddess Lakshmi, the spouse of Lord Jagannath has a separate shrine in the precincts of the Jagannath temple. Mythologically she is the mother of the Goddess of wealth. But, as depicted in the ritual she behaves like a common Oriya house-wife. As house-wives do not appears before their elder brother-in-laws, so also Lakshmi never appears Lord Balabhadra. For this reason, her image is never carried close to the image of Balabhadra. She acts as a devoted and ideal wife but at the same time gets touchy. Her sensitiveness is reflected on two occasions of the festival, the first occurs on the Hera Panchami (5th day of the festival) when she goes out to Gundicha temple where the other deities are resting and the later occasion is when the deities return to the temple.
Lakshmi gets annoyed when she feels neglected by her husband (Lord Jagannath) as he goes cut in the cars with his elder brother and sister, leaving. Her alone in the temple. Being aggrieved she goes surreptitiously to Gundicha temple in a fighting and angry mood in her impotent anger, she breaks up one of the several wheels of Lord Jagannath's car and comes away to the temple as secretly. She had gone. In this festival her image is carried in a palanquin and the Devdasis do the job for her.
The next occasion comes when the deities return to the temple. To their surprise they find the main door of the temple bolted from inside. Lakshmi does it out of anger. The Rajah of Puri however tries to patch up the differences between them. This part of the ritual is known as 'Lakshminarayana Bheta' (Meeting of Lakshmi and Narayan). At first an elephant is sent to fetch her from the temple which she bluntly declines. On insistent appeal she comes in a palanquin up to the door still nursing in mind the insult she suffered. When Lord Jagannath appeals to her to open the door she replies, "You are the Lord of the three worlds ! Why do you come to me ? Go back to your sister, for being left alone. She may feel the pangs of separation" The Lord then says, "You know, my elder brother was also with me. How could you go as you were not to appear before him?" Then he promises valuable gifts to her which she refuses saying that being a woman from poor family. She is unworthy of it. In the end the insistent appeals of the Lord make Lakshmi open the door and all are allowed to come to the temple.
The song duel that takes place during the occasion is virtuality sung by the Devadasis, on behalf of Lakshmi and the Daitas, the non-Brahmin priests, represent Lord Jagannath. In the musical exchange of words, slokas in Sanskrit are also recited and the song-dialogue continues in presence of the countless devotees.
On these two occasions the Gods and Goddesses are brought down to the human level and they are made to behave like common human beings with same sentiments and sensitiveness.
Prior to the advent of foreign power, Orissa was ruled by the king of Puri who was revered as the Godly king by the Rajahs of feauditory states, who were under his command. Their number was fairly large and on the model of the famous shrine at Puri, all of them built Jagannath temples in their capitals where all the festivals related to the deity were observed. Though the car-festival at Puri attracts more people, similar festivals are held throughout the State, though in modest scales. In the western part of the State viz. Sambalpur and Bolangir the festival is also held in big villages. On this occasion the villages wear new garments and auspiciously pull the car with great devotion. The festival is also held beyond the boundaries of Orissa where there are temples of Jagannath. A festival is now held in California, U.S.A by the converted Hindus.
Related to the car-festival, an important festival known as 'Nava Kalebara' is held once in every twelve to nineteen years according to the calculation of the year and date. On this occasion the wooden images of the deities are replaced by new ones. The principle adopted to fix the year of renewal is to find a year which has two full-moons in the month of Asadha (June-July). In every three years a lunar month is excluded from the calculation to keep a balance between the lunar and the solar years. This particular month, which is excluded from calculation is known as 'Adhimasa' or 'Mala masa' and is considered most inauspicious for any religious ceremony. But peculiarly enough this is considered most sacred for the renewal festival of the deities. Therefore, it is also called 'Purusottama Masa', as the other name of Lord Jagannath is Purosottama. During the last hundred years such festivals have been held only six times in 1863, 1893, 1931, 1950, 1969 and 1978.
For making the new images a number of rituals connected with it are observed. When the date is fixed for the festival the Gajapati Maharajah of Puri issues a proclamation to the Vidyapati, Daitas and Brahmins well-versed in the Vedas to go in search of the trees that would proved logs for making the images. Generally this proclamation is issued on the 10th day of the full-moon of Chaitra (March-April). After the mid-day rituals of the Lord Jagannath, the Mahapatras receive 'Agnya mala', the garlands as a token of permission from the Lord to go in search. Then the Mahapatras carry this garland along with four Daitapatis to the 'Anabasara pindi' (a platform inside the temple) where they are given new garments to wear. From there they go to the Jagannath Math, the place of starting. Accompanied by the Daitapatis, Deulakarana, Tudhan, Lenka and four carpenters they go to the temple of Mangala at kakatpur which is about forty kilometres in the north. There they sleep in the temple to obtain permission of the Goddess in dream before proceeding in four batches to four directions in search of the trees.
There are strict injunctions for selection of the trees. The trees must be of Neemba. It should have four branches and must be in near vicinity of a buried ground or river. It shouldn't have cut marks. Snekes below the tree is an auspicious sign. Taking all these specifications into account the selection is made and the Daitapatis immediately place the garland on the trees. Then the area is cleaned. A platform is erected for Bana-yaga ceremony. Four Brahmins conduct the ritual. Then the Daitapatis sit in meditation for three days. After this the Vidyapati marks the tree with a golden axe and then the carpenters begin to cut the tree into huge logs. Thereafter the holy logs are carried in four wheeled-carts newly built for the purpose. The carts are not pulled by animals but by the Sevakas and the people. The sacred logs are taken into the temple compound through the northern gate and are placed in the Koili Baikuntha. On the day of Snana Purnima the logs are bathed along with the old deities. Then the logs are carried to Darughara or the stack and eight Brahmins perform the ritual after which the carving of the images begin by a group of carpenters. During this period nobody is allowed to visit the place. After completion of the carving, the images are painted bright in their respective colours by the traditional chitrakars. The new imges are then circumbulated for three times and brought to the Anabasarapindi for transfer of Brahma from the old deities into their new forms. The senior most among the Pai Mahapatras performs this rite at the dead hour of the night. He takes away the Brahmas from the naval zones and places them in the same position in the new forms. But, he does it blind-folded and with hands covered with cloths as he is not to see of feel the mysterious Brahmas. Then the old images are carried and buried in the wells of Koili Baikuntha by the Daitapatis. For this act they observe mourning for eleven days as is commonly done at the death of a man in a Hindu family.
Chitalagi Or Chitou Amavasya
As Lord Jagannath is the presiding deity of Orissa, many of his festivals are also devotionally followed in Oriya households. Chitalagi or Chitaou Amavasya is one such festival which falls on the new-moon day of the Sravana (August). On this day, in the temple of Jagannath, the deity bears a golden mark (Chita) on the forehead. A special variety of rice-cake known as Chitou pitha is given to the deity as food-offering. This variety is also prepared in every household of the Oriyas of the coastal districts.
In rural areas this is more or less observed as an agricultural festival. On this occasion the farmers worship the paddy-fields. After a purificatory bath in the morning they go to their respective paddy-fields with cake, flowers, milk etc and pray the fields to yield a good crop.
It is in the primitive tradition to appease evil powers through worship whether they are animals, serpents, inspects or plants. People worship and pray them to avoid their warth. Pilas breed enormously in the paddy-fields and tanks during the rainy season. Farmers while working bare-footed in the fields often get their feet cut by the sharp edge of their shells. Therefore, during the festival the pilas is appeased as a female form of evil power known as 'Gandeisuni' (Genda is pila). The farmer girls go to the fields and while offering cakes pray. "Oh; Gandeisuni, be appeased and do not cut the legs of my father or brother".
In Sambalpur areas this festival is known as 'Harali kans'. People of the areas believe it to be a day of the witch, Tandei who moves in the dark to suck the blood of the children. To save children from her wrath mothers draw peculiar designs below the naval zone of the children before the night falls. As they believe that would scare away witch, a common variety of rice-cake Chakuli Pitha is offered to the witch to be appeased and thereafter the cake is taken by all.
The full-moon day in the month of Shravana (August) is known as Gahma Purnima or Go Purnima. In the Hindu tradition even the animals and plants, who are benificial to the human beings are propitiated. The cow is regarded as mother. So, Gahma Purnima is a festival of the agriculturists to worship the cattle. Bullocks are the most important animals for an agriculturist in India. When ploughing the field with bullocks is over the farmers venerate them for the service they have rendered. Along with the cattle the God of agriculture Baladeva is also worshipped. The religious scriptures testify that Balaram invented the plough and showed the people all methods of agriculture. Therefore, bullock is his vehicle and the plough, his weapon. He has been also taken in as an incarnation of Vishnu in holy scriptures. It is for this festival is also known as Baladeva Puja or Baladeva Jayanti in some areas.
On this day the cattle shed is cleaned and neatly plastered and sketches of bullocks, bullocks carts, ploughs and other agricultural implements are drawn on the walls. Bullocks are bathed and decorated with flowers and sandlepaste. Their horns are oiled. The rituals of worship takes place in the cattle-shed itself for which Brahmins are not needed. A piece of new cloth is placed on the back of the bullocks and they are fed with rice-cakes and pulses.
In the afternoon the bullocks are taken to a field where all the agriculturists gather. Each bullock is made to jump over an altar known as Gahma bedi and this portion of the festival is called Gahma dian. It is said that this is reminiscent of a similar festival first arranged by Baladeva himself when he first took the bullocks to plough the land for agriculture.
Though essentially a festival of agriculturists, this festival has other religious and social ceremonies too. The other name of the festival is Rakhi Purnima or Rakshya Purnima. The religious scriptures testify that on this day Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas vested the responsibilites of safety of her sons to Lord Krishna as the Kauravas wanted to kill them. So, the festival goes on from that date and is known as Rakshya Purnima or full-moon day of protection. On this occasion the Brahmins of Orissa go from house to house and bind sacred threads on the wrists of the people invoking Gods to protect their lives. In northern India it is mostly a social festival in which sister bind sacred threads on the wrists of their brothers to protect them from dishonour. This tradition though new to Orissa is slowly gaining ground.
Though Vaishnavism prevailed in Orissa much earlier the cult of Krishna worship was made popular during the 15th century by Sri Chaitanya and his followers. Though temples exclusively dedicated to Krishna are but few in Orissa, the represantative deity of Lord Jagannath is no other than Krishna known as Madan Mohan, Ramakrishna, Gopala, Gopinatha etc.
To the Vaishnavas the festival is known as Jhulan Purnima or the Swinge festival which is observed in most of the Vishnu temples and monasteries following the cult. Beginning from the tenth day of the bright fort-night, it culminates on the Purnima day. The metal images of Radha and Krishna are placed on beautifully decorated swings and nights are spent with singing and dancing in front of the deities. As an important festival of Lord Jagannath, the celebration of the festival in the shrine and monasteries at Puri attracts visitors from far and near. The festival in the temple was first initiated by the Gajapati king Dibyasingha Dev-II (1793-1798).
On the Sundays of the month of Bhadrab (Aug-Sept) this festival is observed by the unmarried girls of the business community of the coastal districts of Orissa. During the festival Goddess Durga is propitiated khuda bhaja (Left out particles of rice that are fried), Kantiali-kakudi (Cucumber having little thorns on it), Lia (fried paddy), Ukhuda (fried paddy sweetened by molasses) and coconut are the food-offering given to the deity. However, the principal food-offering is khuda which is said to be the favourite of the Goddess. Therefore the festival is named as "Khudarankuni" or popularly "Khudurkuni" which means one who is very eager for khuda.
In the early morning the girls go out collecting flowers required for the ritual. The varieties are Kaniara, Godibana, Tagara, Malati, Champa, Mandara and kain. Then they go to nearby rivers and tanks to have purificatory bath. After this they build tiny temples of earth of sand and decorate the same with flowers. Paving obeisence to the deity there, they return to their respective homes. They take two and half mouthfuls of boiled rice mixed with water without adding salt. Then salt is added, the significance of this act is not known. After this the whole day is spent in making garlands and decorating the image of the Goddess.
In villages generally the deity is worshipped in the Dhinkisala or the place where paddy is pounded. This place is plastered neatly with cow-during and the image of the deity is inastalled. The floor is painted with floral designs known as Jhoti or Alpana. Carlands are made to hang like arches. The whole day passes with the arrangement and the rituals of worship commence in the evening.
After the rituals are over the girls recite musically the episode of Taapoi which is now available in print. Earlier this was handed down by oral tradition.
The first episode 'Malasri' recounts the killing of the demon by Durga. It is said, that Mahisasura, the terrible demon became atrocious by getting a boon from Brahma, the creator. Not only the mankind, but also the Gods got panicky. He became so powerful that even Gods couldn't kill him. Then all the Gods conferred and went to request Durga, the Goddess of power to kill the demon. Durga agreed and assuming the from of a beautiful damsel went to Vindhya mountain to pretend penancing. Mahisasura, while out on hunting, noticed the beautiful damsel and immediately offered to marry her. The damsel answered that she would only marry that person who would defeat her in a duel. Mahisasura being confident of his power soon agreed to the proposal. A fierce duel ensued between them; with all her energy the damsel thrusted a trident violently to the chest of the demon who was killed. Thus, Durga redeemed the world from the fear and atrocity of the demon. It is, therefore, believed that the girls worship Durga to be powerful like her to fight evil forces for the good of the human race.
The second episode 'Taapoi' is a legendary account of the sufferings and success of a Sadhab (Sea trader) girl. It also reminds us of the maritime glory of ancient Orissa. When there was sea-borne trade with south-east islands of Java, Bali, Sumatra etc. The Sadhabas of Orissa were a prosperous community who had trade-links with many countries.
According to this tale, there were seven brothers in a prosperous Sadhaba family. Taapoi was their only sister who was also the youngest. Obviously they bestowed their love and affection on her lavishly. Whatever she wished immediately her demands were fulfilled. One day the little girl was playing with her friends with a winnow, made out of bamboo strips. A Brahmin widow of wicked nature scoffed at this. Being hurt the girl demanded a golden winnow to play and it was given. Again she demanded a moon of Gold. When it was half done her father died. When it was completed her mother died. By that time the family also became poor. The seven brothers then set out on their voyage to distant lands for trading and while leaving left clear instructions to their respective wives to take special care of their lovely sister.
Soon after the brothers left the seven wives fell on the bad counsel of the Brahmin widow who impressed upon them that the cause of their poverty is the girl for whom they were so lavish. Soon they changed their attitude. She was not given good food or clothes. She was made to live on khuda (left out rice particles) and was engaged to watch goats in the jungle. Inspite of unbearable torture she waited patiently for her brothers to return. The youngest sister-in-law was kind to her, but couldn't come to her rescue because of the six others.
Amidst all sufferings Taapoi held her morale high. All the while she was praying Durga (Mangala) for the safe return of her brothers. She worshipped the Goddess along with other girls and offered khuda as she had nothing else. Her sincere and devotional prayer yielded fruit and her brothers returned safely. They landed on the shore at night and while resting on the vessel they heard the wailing sound of a girl. Being curious as to who was crying they searched the area and found, to their utter dismay, that she was none else than their dear sister. As the pet goat 'Gharamani' was missing, she was driven out by the in-laws and without being able to find the goat she was helplessly crying. Seeing her brothers, her joys knew no bounds. The brothers heard all about her plight at the hands of their wives. To punish them they asked their sister to cut their noses. But, their noses were restored when again she preyed the Goddess. Then all of them went happily to the home.
These two episodes set two ideals before the girls who observe the festival. One is to be courageous like Durga to fight evil forces and the other to be like Taapoi to bear all sufferings patiently to come out successful in life.
The idols of Durga are then immersed in rivers and tanks and this marks the closing of the festival.
The day dedicated to the worship of Ganesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva is known as Ganesha Chaturthi which is the fourth day in the light half of the month of Bhadrab, Ganesha, the God of the masses is one among the most important deity in the Hindu pantheon. He is the remover of all obstacles and bestower of success. His elephant head suggests cool brain and the steed, rat suggests perseverance; the two qualities that are important to archieve success. In the worship of all other Gods, even of his father Shiva, Ganesha is invoked in the beginning. There is no ritual without a prayer to him. Almost in every important shrine of Orissa Ganesha appears as a Parswa Devata or the guardian deity.
The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm in all the educational institutions and also in public places. Highly gilded images of the deity are worshipped with great devotion. The business community, especially the shopkeepers preserve an image of Ganesha. They pray him daily for their success. On this day they change the image with a new one and immerse the old in a river or tank.
The birthday of Lord Krishna, the eighth incarnation of Lord Vishnu is celebrated as Janmastami. It falls on the eighth day of the dark half of the month of Bhadraba. Of all the divine incarnations of the God, Sri Krishna is the most adored. By virtue of his divine leelas or sports, Krishna has become the darling of the humanity. The purpose of taking this avatar or incarnation was, as explained in the Bhagavat Geeta, the annihilation of evil and the establishment of truth and virtue as such, from his infancy onwards Krishna destroyed numerous demons (suggestive of evil forces) who were harassing the Gods and men alike. Later, as an ally of the pandavas. He brought about in the interest of truth and justice, the war of Kurukshetra to destroy the wicked Kauravas and restore legitimate rights to the honest and truthful Pandavas. It was from this battle field that he delivered his message to the suffering humanity which has come down to us as the most sacred book 'Geeta'. All his sports of Leela have been elaborately described in the Bhagavata, Mahabharata, Harijanma and many other religious texts. The birth day of the Lord is, therefore, celebrated as one of the greatest of all Hindu festivals in all houses.
Lord Krishna war born at mid-night when the moon entered the house of Vrisabha at the constellation of the star Rohini on the eighth day of the dark half of the month of Bhadrab. Therefore, it became customary to observe fasting upto mid-night till the exact hour of birth. When the fixed hour comes conches are brown, gongs are sounded, slogans involving the God are given which heralds the birth of Krishna. After this Bhog (food offering) is offered to the deity and the fast is broken.
The festival is widely celebrated in all vaishnavite temples, monasteries and houses, Clay images of Krishna are also worshipped on this occasion. The festival is devoutly observed by the cowherd community of Orissa as Krishna lived and spent his childhood days in Gopa. The next day is observed as 'Nandotshaba' by this particular community as a reminiscence of the festival that was held by Nanda Raja, to celebrate the birth and arrival of Krishna. The young boys sing songs related to Krishna,s sport and dance to the beats of resonant sticks.
While vaishnavism was the court-religion of Orissa since 11th century A.D., the cult of Krishna worship was made popular during 15th century A.D. by Sri Chaitanya and his followers. Though temples exclusively dedicated to Krishna are few in Orissa, the representative deities of Lord Jagannath are no other than Krishna who is known as Madanmohana, Ramakrishna, Gopala, Gopinath etc.
The most important festival of western Orissa comprising the districts of Sambalpur, Bolangir, Sundergarh, Kalahandi and some areas of Phulbani, is Nuakhia. Generally it takes place in the bright half of the month of Bhadrab on an auspicious day fixed by the astrologers. In the ex-State areas the date is fixed according to the instructions of the ruling Chiefs.
The people in general eagerly look forward for the festival and preparation starts before a fort-night. Most of the houses are cleaned, neatly plastered and decorated by the house wives. On this occasion old and young, all wear new cloths. Though the festival is intended for eating new rice of the year, it is observed as a general festival. Meeting of friends and relatives, singing, dancing and merry-making are parts of the festival. On this occasion the new rice is cooked with milk and sugar (Kshiri) and then offered as Bhoga to Goddess Lakshmi. Then the eldest member of the family distributes the same to other members.
The holy scriptures testify that on this day Rama killed Ravana and his victory was celebrated. Therefore, it is also called 'Vijaya Dasami' (Victory tenth day). In Orissa it was therefore a military festival. In the villages the agriculturists worship their implements. The khandayats or the Paikas bring out their rusty swords, spears and other weaponry to clean and worship. The Paika Akhadas are held in which young men indulge in stylised military dances, display of sword fighting and various acrobatic stunts. People in general polish their instruments of profession at this time and also clean, plaster and whitewash their houses. Beautiful flower-designs are painted on both sides of the doors.
Now-a-days idols of Durga are worshipped for five days, especially in towns and cities. This tradition of idol worship has been set by the Bengalis who dominated during the time of the British rule in Orissa. Especially in the city of Cuttack a large number of idols of Durga and Mahadev are worshipped in profusely decorated pandals. After Dasami all the idols are then taken in procession for immersion in the river Kathajori. Many people come to the city from villages to watch the festival.
Kumar Purnima is the full-moon day in the month of October-November. This autumn festival is one of the most popular and important festival of Orissa. Kumar or Kartikeya, the handsome son of Shiva was born on this day. He also became the God of war. As young girls always wish for a handsome husband, they propitiate Kumar who was most handsome among the Gods. But peculiarly enough there is no ritual for the God, instead the Sun and the Moon are worshipped.
In the early morning the girls after their purificatory bath wear new garments and make food offerings to the Sun. They observe fasting for the day. In the evening when the moon rises they again make food offerings of a special variety and take it after the rituals are over.
It is a festival of rejoicing for the girls. All of them sing and dance. The songs are of special nature. They also play a kind of game known as 'Puchi'. They also indulge in other varieties of country-games.
This day is also observed as the birth day of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth. Therefore, many people worship the Goddess at their homes and keep themselves awake by playing Pasha (Chess) and other indoor games. Significantly it suggests that those who wish to acquire wealth should always be vigilant at night. "It is for this reason the owl, the bird which sleeps in the day and comes out only at night".
The whole month of Kartika (October-November) is considered to be the most sacred among all the twelve months of the year. During this month all the pious Hindus refrain from eating fish, meat or egg. All of them take pre-dawn bath and visit temples as a matter of routine. The last five days are consisted more sacred in which there is wide participation. Taken together the days are called 'Panchaka', the last day being the Kartika Purnima. Every day they take food only once in the afternoon which is known as 'Habisha'.
For all the five days the women after purificatory bath in the early morning draw beautiful flower-designs around the chaura (a small temple like structure with a Tulasi plant overhead) with colour powders produced indigenously. Fasting for the day is commonly observed. Most of the Shiva temples get crowded with devotees offering prayers to Lord Shiva who is said to have killed the demon Tripurasura on this day. Group-singing of kirtans and loud beating of Mrudanga and cymbals continue for the whole day.
Another festival that takes place in the morning is significant to the ancient history of Orissa. This reminds the maritime glory of the State. In olden days the sadhabas (Sea traders) used to sail off to district islands like Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Cevlon etc. for their trade by huge boats (Boita). The women of the community were giving them a hearty send off on this day. The days are now gone, but the memory is still alive. now people float tiny boats made out of cork and coloured paper or bark of the banyan tree while reminiscing the past glory. This is called 'Boita Bandana'.
The next fortnight of the month is spent propitiating the dead ancestors. In every evening, a covered but perforated earthen pot carrying an earthen lamp inside is hoisted to a pole to help guide the ancestral spirits to descend on their respective villages and homes. The members of a family light a bunch of jute stalks with the invocation "Oh ! the ancestors come in the darkness and go in the light." This is called 'Badabadua Daka'.
In the city of Cuttack and some other places huge images of Karikeswar are built and worshipped. At night they are taken out in procession and are immersed in the river Mahanadi, near a Shiva temple. Exactly at this place a big fair known as 'Bali Yatra' is held for about three four days. The name of the festival has two significances. Some are of opinion that on this day the Sadhabas were sailing off to Bali and therefore, the name Some others believe that Sri Chitanya the great Vaishnavite saint of Bengal on his way to Puri landed on this day at Cuttack after crossing the sand-bed (Sand is Bali) of the river Mahanadi.
Thousands of People congregate at the fair-ground where innumerable varieties of goods are bought and sold. People also enjoy boating with friends and family in moon-lit night.
The quiet month of Kartika climaxes on the Deepavali night in the festival of lamps. It is the last day of the dark fortnight. This festival of lights is observed widely all over the country. In the evening all the homes are decorated and lighted with rows of earthen lamps. Varieties of crackers are also burst. Cakes and delicious dishes are prepared in every household. In all, the festival is celebrated with fire-works, illumination, feasting and gambling.
The festival is also known as Kalipuja as the Goddess is propitiated on this day. Huge images of the terrific Goddess are built and worshipped. This tradition has come to Orissa in imitation from Bengal.
Some people, especially the business community observe it as a new Year's day and worship Goddess Lakshmi on the occasion. On this day they settle their business accounts, bury old enmitly and start pusuits a new for the coming new year. Worshipping Lakshmi on the day specified for Kali is also significant. In some Puranas it has been stated that Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth was a captive in the nether world. On this day she was freed by Vishnu form the clutches of Bali. Therefore, the festival is celebrated in her honour.
Another account is available which says that this day is the reminiscence of the festival that was held by the rejoicing people of Ayodhya to celebrate the coronation of Sri Ram. Therefore, the festival is marked with mirth and merriment.
Peculiarly this festival is celebrated differently by the low-caste Hindus in the district of Mayurbhanj. The call it 'Bandana'. The festival is observed for three days beginning from Deepavali. On this occasion they worship the cows and bullocks. On the first day the cattle are cleanly bathed in rivers or ponds. Then at home, their horns are oiled, their feet are washed with water mixed with turmeric and marks of vermillion paste are put on the fore-head. In the afternoon sturdy young bullocks decorated with patches of colours all over the body and and are tethered to poles with a strong rope. A group of people singing, dancing and playing drums (Madal) followed by an enthusiastic crowd approach the bullocks one by one. One of them holds tiger-skin and frightens the bullock. When the bullocks gets terrified and charges violently, he gets away to the back or side foiling all attempts made by the bullock. Thus they make all the bullocks dance one by one tethered from one end to another in the villages street. The nights are spent with drinking, feasting, singing and dancing. This reminds us of the bull-fight that takes place at Madrid in Spain.
Peculiarly enough in Nepal the fourth day after Deepavali is observed as Bullock's Day in which they are fed with fodders soaked with wine. They also oil their horns and put vermillion marks on their fore-heads. Their bodies are also richly decorated.
This is one of the most popular festivals of Orissa, peculiar to the region. This is the eighth day in the month of Margasira in which the eldest child of the family is honoured. He or she is given new clothes and is made to sit on a wooden pedestal (Pidha). In front of him/her an earthen Pitcher, full of water is placed on handfuls of paddy. Above it a branch of mango leaves and a coconut is placed. Then, the mother or any other elderly lady wishes him/her long-life and good health by praying Sasthi Debi, the Goddess that protects children. The social significance of this festival is that the first-borns are brighter and it is ultimately they who take up the burden of the family tradition is maintained through them. For such obvious reasons the eldest child is honoured to occupy the respectable place in the family after the death of the parents.
A special variety of cake is prepared on this occasion which is known as 'Enduri'. The cake is offered to the Goddess of Sasthi and then taken by all.
In the temple of Lingaraj at Bhubaneswar, the festival is observed with great devotion. On this day the representative deity of Lingaraj is taken out in a palanquine to a tank called "Papanasini" which is situated just behind the temple.
With the harvest brought home the farmers feel greatly satisfied with the yield. After six months of toil in the field, they fill the granaries with the blessings of Goddess Lakshmi. So, the whole month of Margashira (Dec-January) is spent in worshipping the Goddess. All the rituals connected with the festival is done by house-wives themselves. On each Thursday of the month the houses are plastered with cow-during, the floors are decorated with beautiful floral designs drawn with rice-powder mixed with water. This is called 'Jhoti'. Footmarks are painted from the doorstep to the place of worship as if Goddess Lakshmi has entered the house. The roofs are decorated with flower garlands and festoon woven out of paddy stalks.
After purificatory bath in the morning the housewives worship the Goddess, not through an image but significantly through paddy-measures. Different varieties of rice-cakes and Kshiri (rice-soup prepared with milk and sugar) are prepared in every house hold and are offered to the deity and then taken by all.
In the evening the Lakshmi Purana is read or recited in which an interesting story is told. Once Shreeya, an untouchable woman worshipped Goddess Lakshmi by observing this festival. Being moved by her devotion Lakshmi left her permanent abode, the temple which is situated inside the campus of the temple of Lord Jagannath and visited Shreeya's house. When Lord Balabhadra, the elder brother of Lord Jagannath came to know about this She was declared defiled and was not allowed to come back into the temple. Lakshmi was deeply hurt and went to her father Sagara.
When Lakshmi went out of the temple all wealth in the temple started vanishing. Later the Gods Balabhadra and Jagannath couldn't find food to sustain themselves. They came out of the temple in the guise of Brahmin beggars in search of food. Ultimately they landed at the door of the Goddess Lakshmi. Balabhadra apologised for the mistake and all of them returned to the temple.
The Purana ultimately teachers all to pay extreme regard to Goddess Lakshmi and the person who disregards her is sure to fail on evil days. This means that wealth is sure to make a person suffer.
The tenth day in the bright fortnight of the month of Pousha (November-December) is known as Shamba Dasami. The day is dedicated to the worship of the Sun God and is peculiar to Orissa.
There is a legend attached to the festival which tells about how and when the festival came to be observed. It also finds mention in the Shamba Purana. Shamba was the most handsome son of Krishna who was also very proud. He never paid any respect to his elders and mostly spent his life in licentious habits. Once he came across Narada, who is revered by all Gods and Goddess. But Shamba didn't pay any respect to him but instead played tricks. This enraged the sage. In order to take revenge of this insult Narada made a false allegation against him before his father Lord Krishna that he had seen him in love-play with Gopis who are to be respected like mothers. Enraged with this Krishna cursed him to be afflicted with leprosy. As a result Shamba got afflicted with leprosy and lost his handsome features which were his pride. Narada never believed that the curse would be so severe. He repented and then advised Shamba to go to the Maitreya Bana to sit in penance to receive the blessing of the Sun God, who would only cure him from this dreadful disease. Shamba sat in penance for long twelve years. Being pleased with his devotion the Sun God cured him of the disease. The day Shamba was freed from disease is known as Shamba Dasami. The day is observed as a festival to propitiate the Sun God as the best healer of disease.
Maitreya Bana is identified with the present site of Konark where Shamba spent the rest of his life worshipping the Sun God. Later, considering the religious importance of the place Langula Narasingha Deva, the mightly Ganga ruler of Orissa built the famous shrine of Sun God at Konark in 13th century A.D.
This is another variant of the legend about Shamba Dasami. It says that once Narada came to Dwarka. There he found Rukmini, the spouse of Krishna to be morose and tearful. On enquiry Rukmini disclosed that she gave birth to a child as beautiful as Madana, the cupid, but he was abducted by a demon and since then there is no end to her plight. Then Narada consoled and advised her to pray Sun God to get back her child. To arouse belief and strength in her, he narrated another story about the efficacy of such prayer. This tale has it that there was a Brahmin in Arka Kshetra (Konark) named Goutama. He had three beautiful sons by his wife Padmamukhi. To his ill luck all of them died one by one. His grief-stricken wife attempted to commit suicide. The Brahmin forbade her and then pursuaded her to pray Sun God. She sat in deep penance praying the God. Being moved by her devotion and prayer the Sun God fulfilled her desire and she was again blessed with children. Narrating the story Narada advised Rukmini to worship the Sun-God accordingly. She followed his advise and prayed the God with utmost devotion. In the mean time, the lost child Pradyumna killed the demon Sambarasura who abducted him and came down to his parents in a Veemana(aeroplane). Both Krishna and Rukmini became overjoyed getting back their son. According to this version, as the demon sambarasura was killed on this day, the festival is known as Sambara Dasami.
'This festival is mostly observed by the elderly women who propitiate the Sun-God to keep their children free from all disease. Those who are childless also pray for children.
On this day the Sun God is invoked for three times, once in the morning, then at mid-day and lastly in the evening before the Sun sets.
The orbit of the Earth round the Sun is known as Kranti Brutta (Circle of Movement). It takes full one year for the Earth to take the orbital move. The orbit is divided into twelve parts known as 'Rashi' and accordingly the year has twelve months. The day the Earth starts moving from one 'Rashi' to another is called Sankranti and is counted as the first day of the month Makara Sankranti is the first day of the month of Magha. According to the christian calendar it generally falls on 13th or 14th of January. It is the day on which the Sun enters the sign of Makara (Capricorn) which is the beginning of Uttarayana or the Sun's northern course.
Makara Sankranti as a festival is modestly celebrated in the all other parts of Orissa excepting the districts of Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundargarh where it is observed as the most important festival of the year. Almost in every Hindu household 'Makara Chaula', a special variety of Bhog prepared with rawrice, molasses, coconut, chhena (cheese) honey and milk etc. is offered to the Sun-God and then taken by all. People in feneral have early purificatory bath and visit temples. According to the Sun's movement, the days from this day onwards become lengthy and warmer and so the Sun-God is worshipped as a great benefactor.
In the districts of Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundargarh where the tribal population is more than forty percent, the festival is celebrated with great joy and merriment. Though this is not a festival of the tribal People, but because of their acculturisation with the Hindus for centuries they have been celebrating this festival with great enthusiasam. Moreover, the time of the festival is best suited for them as all agricultural operations are over by that time and each family possess something after the harvest.
Preparation for the festival starts much earlier. All the houses are cleaned and neatly plastered. They are painted with three colours viz. white, red and black. New clothes are worn by young and the old alike. Sweet cakes and a meal with meat-curry is a must in every household. Liquor is freely consumed by men and women. They sing and dance and enjoy life for about a week.
Before the day dawns all the people take their purificatory bath in the river or tank and wear new garments. The day is spent with feasting and merry-making. In some places village-style sports are also organised and there are ram-fighting, cock-fighting and archery competitions.
Young girls of certain communities mostly Kudumi, Bastiti, Rajual etc. worship 'Tushu', a female deity and immerse it in the river or tank singing songs of a special variety.
In the temple of Lord Jagannath this festival is observed as 'Uttarayana Yatra'.
In some places big fairs are also held on this occasion and the biggest of its kind is held at Jagatsinghpur of the Cuttack district.
The day marked for the propitiation of Saraswati, the Goddess of learning is known as Sripanchami. This is also known as Basanta Panchami. The words 'Sree' and 'Basanta' are significant to the festival. 'Sree' is beauty and the other name of 'Saraswati' and Basanta is spring-season which brings beauty and pleasure to the Earth. Therefore it is a festival to welcome beauty through worship of the Goddess.
The worship of Saraswati is prevalent since the age of the Vedas where she has been referred as Bacha. During the Puranic age the tradition became more established and she was adored with a number of names. At this stage her form was conceived and accordingly images were built. Clad in white, she rides a white swan while playing a veena. White is the sign of her purity. She is the Goddess of music, poetry, learning and eloquence, indeed of all the arts and sciences.
In some scriptures Saraswati has been described as the wife of Brahma. But, the widely held view is that she was created by Brahma out of his own intuitive powers and therefore, she was his daughter. Vishnu is the preserver of the universe and for this job. He needed both learning and intellect and Goddess Saraswati fulfilled this need by becoming his wife. In her four hands she holds a stylus, a book and plays a veena (flute) with two. This stylus and the book signify learning and the veena, music. She is seated on a lotus which signifies beauty and heavenly origin. The swan is the vehicle as of her father Brahma.
In some scriptures she is also known as Brahmi, Bharati, Gira, Barnamatruka etc. In the Vedas the supreme deity of learning has also been referred to as Agni or fire. This lends credence to a significance that fire is the source of light and light is the source of knowledge. It was, therefore, natural to the early Aryans to propitiate the Goddess as Agni or fire.
This festival, held on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Magha is mostly celebrated in the educational institutions. Students observe fasting since morning, wear new garments and propitiate the Goddess to bestow them with learning and eloquence. They offer 'Puspanjali' (handful of flowers) to the deity and then break their fast. Image of the deity are built by traditional clay-modellers, who are famous in the country for their artistic skill. They make hundreds of such images small and big, for sale. In the evening cultural programs and feasts are arranged as a part of the celebration. The next day, the images are taken in procession to nearby tanks or rivers for immersion.
The festival is observed differently in the temple of Jagannath. As this festival marks the advent of the spring season with winter receding, the warm clothings of the three deities are removed and they are again clad in saffron colour clothes. A special variety of cake is prepared and offered to the deities which is known as 'Basantapistaka' (cake of the spring). Thereafter, a peculiar festival continues from this day to Dola Purnami in which the representative deity of Lord Jagannath Ramachandra goes out hunting. This part of the festival is known as 'Benta Yatra'. The deity receives a bow and an arrow made out of split-bamboos from Budha Lenda and goes to Bentapokhari (a pond) situated in the campus of the Jagannath Ballav Math which is very close to the temple. There the deity shoots arrows to a bundle of coconuts and Kasturi which represent a deer.
Every deity in the Hindu pantheon has a particular day dedicated to him and that day is considered most sacred and auspicious to worship and propitiate. Shiva Ratri or the night of Shiva is a festival held in honour of the God. In Shiva Purana, Shiva says to her consort Parvati that no festival other than Shiva Ratri, observed by his devotees gives him so much pleasure and satisfaction. This festival is, therefore observed with great sanctity by the people on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of Phalguna (February-March).
In times of yore Orissa was great seat of Shaivism. It was the state religion for over four centuries and as a result, innumerable temples were built and dedicated to Shiva throughout the length and breadth of the State by the pious rulers, Bhubaneswar alone has about five hundred shrines for Shiva, both big and small. The earliest temples date back to 6th-7th century A.D. Since then shaivism is a great religious force among the people of Orissa. Most of the prosperous villages have a temple for Shiva.Therefore,the festival is held with great religious fevour in the State.
According to a legend it signifies the day on which Lord Shiva swallowed the deadly poison that emanated from the churning of the ocean of milk which would have killed the Gods. Not knowing that it would not cause any harm to Him, all the Gods and Goddesses kept vigil throughout the night praying for His life. The prayer that was offered to Him that night is repeated since then on Shiva Ratri.Yet another story tells that at the time of the deluge [Pralaya] the whole world was covered with utter darkness and the Divine Mother restored light to the world by offering prayer to Shiva. It is said that the rituals that are observed in the festival are the same as observed by the Mother Goddess.
Shiva Ratri is observed in every temple dedicated to Shiva. The devotees observe strict religious discipline by abstaining from food for the day and keep themselves awake the whole night. Shiva linga is worshipped with vilwa leaves throughout the night with chanting of the Panchakshyara mantra 'Om ! Namah Shivay ! The next morning, they take their bath and after worshipping Shiva again break their fasts.
Many are the stories narrated in the Puranas about the efficacy of the observance of this festival. The story of the king chitrabhanu of lkshyaku dynasty is one. It is stated that during his previous birth the king was a hunter by name Suswara- and was eking out his livelihood by hunting birds and animals and selling them. On a Shiva Ratri day, he was roaming about in the forest and then shot a deer, but couldn't take his spoil home as he was overtaken by the darkness of the night. He got upon a vilwa tree and kept awake the whole night stricken with hunger and thirst. He had starved for the day and so couldn't sleep in the night due to hunger. While keeping himself awake for the whole night, he plucked leaves from the vilwa tree and dropped them one by one to the ground. He never knew that there was a Shiva Linga beneath the tree and the leaves he dropped fell on the Linga. When the day dawned he went home, sold the deer and purchased food for the family. He fed a stranger who begged him for food. Because of this virtuous deed that he performed, even if unknowingly, two messengers of Shiva came to him at the hour of his death and conducted his soul to the abode of Shiva. After enjoying divine bliss for long, he was again reborn as king Chitrabhanu of Jambudwipa i.e. India.
According to another legend that finds mention in the Puranas, Brahma and Vishnu, the two supreme Gods had a difference as regards their supremacy. The matter was reffered to Shiva for a verdict. Shiva, then asked both the Gods to gauge the depth and measure the height of his Linga. Vishnu took the form of a boar and dived below to ascertain the depth and Brahma on his swan vehicle scaled high to ascertain the height. High above in the void Brahma on his came across a petal of Ketaki flower drifting downwards. As it was falling from the top of the Linga. He asked the petal about the further distance upward. The petal couldn't answer since how many ages that it was drifting downwards. Brahma refrained from going up and went to the nether world to meet Vishnu. Showing the petal he claimed to have ascertained the height of the Linga. At this false pretext, the petal objected. As Brahma was exposed because of the disclosure of the petal. He, in wrath, cursed- "From this day you would be unworthy for the worship of Shiva" Vishnu, being pleased with her truthfulness blessed saying. 'On Shiva chaturdaphi you will be worthy for Shiva's worship. Therefore only on this day Ketaki flower has the right to be offered to the deity. On no other occasion the flower is ever used for worship.
Almost all the important shrines for Shiva bear festive look during the festival. Thousands of people flock to the temples from the early morning to offer worship to the deity. In some places big fairs are arranged where large varieties of goods and implements are bought and sold.
Dola Purnima is a popular festival in the coastal districts of Orissa. it is the full-moon day in the month of Falguna (March). Though the festival the spring is welcomed and enjoyed with mirth and merriment. This festival has been referred to in the puranical texts as Basantotsaba or the spring-festival. Some scriptures testify that the Madanotsaba, the festival held in honour of Madana or the cupid was later transformed as the Dolatsaba or swing-festival of Krishna. Therefore, Krishna is propitiated on this occasion as Madanamohana. Description of the festival as Dolatsaba finds mention in a number of puranas and other Sanskrit texts. The Padma purana says, "One is expiated of all sins, who gets a vision of Krishna swaying in the swing."
Though the festival of Holi is observed for a day with mirth and merriment all over the country, the festival is celebrated for five days in Orissa. It starts from the tenth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Falguna (Feb-March) known as Fagu 'Dasami'. Smearing the heads with Abira (a violet coloured powder) the people take round the idols of Madanamohana in richly decorated palanquins known as Veemana. The procession is led by village drummers, pipers and the Sankirtana Mandalis. The procession halts in front of each household and the deity is offered Bhog. The daily rounds of the deity for the four days is called Chachery. On the final day of the purnima the celebration culminates in a swinge-festival for the deities. The idols carried in veemans from a number of village assemble in an important place where swinges are fixed on a platform. They are made to swinge to the accompaniment of devotional music sung in chorus.
In olden days the beginning of the new year was calculated from the spring-season. After the swinging festival of the deities, the Ganaka or Jyothisha (astronomer-cum-fortune teller) reada out the new Oriya almanac and narrates the important events that are to take place during the year. For this reason, some are of opinion that this festival is purely to celebrate the new year.
On the fourteenth day of the fortnight there is a function in which a straw-hut is set to fire amidst much amusement and excitement. This is known as 'Holipoda' (burning of Holi). The legend about it is that, Holi was the most beautiful sister of Hiranyakashipu, the demon-king. As an ardent devotee of Shiva she got the boon that she would never die of drowning or burning.
Inspite of all heinous attempts Hiranyakashipu couldn't kill his son Prahlada, the devotee of Vishnu. Then he planned to burn him to ashes. As Holi would never get burnt she was asked to walk in the blazing fire with the child in her arms. Surprisingly the child came out unhurt but Holi was burnt to death Enraged at this Hiranya asked Shiva about the inefficacy of his boon. Then Shiva replied, "I granted her the boon to protect herself, not to kill anybody." As a reminiscent to this, the 'Holipoda' is celebrated and the next day is the festival of colours 'Holi' in which young and old participate. People smear colour powders on each other's face and head and squirl coloured waters. There is much fun and merriment in the festival.
In some places the burning of the straw hut is known as Mendhapodi or the burning of a ram. A legend attached to it says that a demon known as Mesha was causing terror in the Heaven and Earth, Gods as well as human beings prayed Krishna to rescue them from his atrocities. Krishna killed and and burnt him to ashes. It is therefore to reminiscent this event that a hut is burnt which represents the abode of the demon.
In many places of the State big fairs are arranged where idols of the deity are assembled. These fairs are called 'Melana'. The Veemanas of the surrounding villages are placed in a row for public view. Keen competition is observed in the decoration of the veemanas. When all the expected veemanas reach the place, display of fire-works takes place and his is watched by thousands of enthusiastic crowd. In the fairs agricultural implements, commodities, household articles and furniture are bought and sold. Such Melanas or Fairs continue till the month of Chaitra in different places of the district of Cuttack, Puri and Ganjam.
This is the car-festival of Lord Shiva celebrated with great enthusiasm at Bhubaneswar and is considered to be the most important festival of Lord Lingaraj. On the eighth day of the month of Chaitra the representative deity of Lingaraj Sri Chandrasekhar is drawn on a car from near the temple to the temple of Rameswara. Thousands of people congregate on this occasion to watch the festival.
There is a puranical account about the origin of the festival. It is said that Ramachandra, inspite of all efforts couldn't kill Ravana as Goddess Kali was protecting him. Then he was advised by Bibhisana, the younger brother of Ravana to propitiate the Mother Goddess and win Her support. Then Ramachandra prayed the Goddess for long seven days with elaborate rituals and could please her to withdraw support from Ravana. When her favour was withdrawn it became easy for Ramachandra to kill Ravana through 'Brahmastra', the unfailing weapon. To celebrate this victory he took out Shiva and Durga, in a car out of pleasure and satisfaction. from that day the festival is being observed.
As the 'shoka' or sorrow of Ramachandra was removed by the death of Ravana, this day is called Ashoka (devoid of shoka) Astami or Ashokastami. Some religious texts are of the opinion that Parvati could get Shiva as her husband on this day and she became 'Ashoka' (removed off sorrowfulness) and therefore, the festival has been named as Ashokastami.
The birthday of Rama is observed as Ramanavami on the ninth day of the light half of the month of Chaitra. Though there are very few temples dedicated to Rama in Orissa, this festival is widely celebrated by the performances of Rama Leela (the sport of Rama) based on the famous epic Ramayana. Beginning from this day the performances continue for over a month. Some observe fasting on the day and take food only after visiting the temple. There are several centres where the performance are held with great sanctity. The Ram Leela, held in Asureswar of Cuttack district and Dasapalla of Puri district are well known.
Orissa is the home of sixty one varieties of tribal people who constitute twenty-five percent of the total population. They inhabit the hilly hinterlands and still preserve their tradition and culture to a large extent. Like the Hindus they have their own festivals to propitiate the deities, but they celebrate them with total freedom of drinking, feasting, singing and dancing. They do not observe austere practices or abstain from enjoyment. They offer prayers to their deities with dance and songs. Social barriers are also thrown open during the festival period which allows permissiveness. Sacrifice of animals and birds to please the Gods is a custom with them. In almost all festivals this is considered indispensable.
Because of living with the civilized Hindus for over centuries, certain tribal people have also adopted their festivals which they observe with equal enthusiasm. This acculturisation has pushed out many tribal people from their traditional festivals. Moreover, large scale conversion and modern education have also contributed to this change.
Among the tribal people of Orissa, there are festivals which are observed by different tribes irrespective of their caste and creed. Besides, each tribal group also maintains its own peculiar festivals which are observed by the particular group alone. But the mode of celebration of the festivals almost remains the same. Only in few of the festivals peculiar mode of celebration is marked.
The Karma or Karam festival is widely prevalent among the tribal people of Sundargarh, Mayurbhanj, Sambalpur, Bolangir, Dhenkanal and Keonjhar. It is also observed by the low-caste Hindus of the areas. This festival is also observed by the aboriginal people of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The tribes in Orissa who observe it with great devotion are Ho, Kisan, Kol, Bhumij, Oraon, Bhuiyan and Binjhals.
In this festival the presiding deity is either 'Karam', a God or 'Karamsani', a Goddess who is represented with a branch of Karam tree. Its celebration takes place in the bright half of the month of Bhadrab (August-September) during the rainy season. Mostly it is held on the eleventh day of the bright fortnight.
In the ritual, people go the jungle accompanied by groups of drummers and cut one or more branches of Karam tree. The branches are mostly carried by unmarried young girls who sing in praise of the deity. Then the branches are brought to the village and planted in the centre of a ground which is plastered with cow-dung and decorated with flowers. Then the tribal-priest (Jhankar or Dehuri) offers germinated grams and liquor in propitiation to the deity who grants wealth and children. A fowl is also killed and the blood is offered to the branch. Then, he narrates legend to the villagers about the efficacy of Karam puja. The legend vary from tribe to tribe.
Among the Bhumij, Ho and Orans the legend prevalent is that there were seven brothers living together. The six elders used to work in the field and the youngest was staying at home. He was indulging in dance and songs round a Karam tree in the courtyard with his six sisters-in-law. One day they were so engrossed that the morning meal of the brothers couldn't be carried to the field by their respective wives. When they arrived home, they got agitated and threw away the Karam tree to a river. The younger brother left home in anger. Then evil days fell on the brothers. Their house was damaged, the crops failed and virtually they starved, while wandering the youngest brother found the Karam tree floating in the river. Then he propitiated the godling who restored everything. There after he came home, called his brothers and told them that because they insulted Karam Devta they had to fall on evil days. Since then the Karam Devta is being worshipped.
After narration of the legend all men and women drink liquor and spend the whole night singing and dancing, which are essential parts of the festival. The songs and dances also vary from tribe to tribe.
Another legend prevalent among the Pauri Bhuiyans is that a merchant returned home after a very prosperous voyage. His vessel was loaded with precious metals and other valuables, which he had brought from distant lands. He waited in the vessel to be ceremoniously received by his wife and relatives as was the custom. As it was the day of Karam festival and all the women were engrossed with dancing and the men playing the drums, none went to receive him. The merchant became furious with them. He uprooted the Karam tree and threw it away. Then the wrath of Karam Devta fell on him. His vessel immediately sank in the sea. Then he consulted astrologers who told him to propitiate Karam Devta. Again in another vessel he set out in search of the deity and found him floating in the sea. He propitiated him with great devotion and was restored with all wealth. From that day on the annual festival of Karam puja is being held. After spending the whole night with dance and songs, the people uproot the branches and carry them to nearby rivers of rivulets for immersion.
The festival is observed in two ways. Firstly, it is commonly held by the villagers on the village street and the expenses on liquor etc. are commonly borne Or, alternatively, it is celebrated by a man in his courtyard under his patronage to which he invites all. Even people who come uninvited listening to the sound of drums are also entertained with liquor.
Exactly on the dates of Karam Festival, the tribal people of Koraput observe the festival of Bali Jatra. Beginning from the eleventh day of the bright half of the month of Bhadrab it continues upto the full-moon. The beginning of the festival begins with Nuakhia (first eating) feast on which new rice is eaten. The festival takes the name for planting of various grains in the wet sand (Bali) brought from a nearby stream and is placed on a structure called Balijatra or sand house. This is an occasion for a number of other celebrations too. Men and women put on fancy dresses and rejoice with drinking, feasting, dancing and singing. In some areas a swing is set up with its seat studded with sharp nails and on this a Bejju (witch doctor) is made to swing. Goats, fowls and pigeons are sacrificed. The Bejju then walks on the bed of live charcoal. He dances in trance for all the three days with intermittent rest during which he prophesies both good and evil portends to grant boons to the people.
Peculiarly the ritual of swinging on a seat of nails and fire-walking is observed by the low-caste Hindus of the coastal areas during the Pana Samkranti festival. It may be that the tribal people have adopted the ritual from the Hindus as such rituals are not in the tradition of tribal culture.
The most important festival of the tribal people of Koraput is Chaita Parab. It is also observed by the Bhuiyans of Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh and Keonjhar. Bhuiyans are an ancient hinduised tribe who greatly influenced the culture of the other tribes. They are also found in Seraikela and Kharswan regions of the district of Singbhoomi in Bihar, where the festival is observed with great enthusiasm.
For the whole month of Chaitra the tribal people remain in festive mood. They wear new clothes, sacrifice animals and birds before their godlings, feast drink, sing and dance. During the day time women, young and old, keep on singing and dancing. The men go out hunting in the jungle. They bring whatever animal comes to their sight. Even they do not spare a jackal. Whatever kill they bring, the meat is distributed among all the villagers. The nights are spent in drinking, singing and dancing.
The festival of Chaitra Parab is known as Bijapandu among the tribal people known as Koya who are concentrated in the Malkangiri sub-division of the district of Koraput. The Koya villages are situated on patches of clearings in the midst of dense forests. In each village there happens to be a Bijigudi or house of God. The tribes worship, 'Gudimata', the Mother Earth and also the earth whom they call Bhumu. During the festival they worship the Godlings with liquor and sacrifice an animal or bird.
The Bijapandu is the sacred seed from which the festival takes it name. During the festival the men go out hunting and fishing in groups and return home before dark. During the days the women keep on singing and dancing, waiting for their men to come. In the evenings they unite, feast, drink and dance together.
The Koyas have special variety of dance for the festivals. Men wear huge headgears of bisson-horns which are richly decorated with peacock feathers and cowries. The drums are cylindrical and unusually long. Women wear brass-caps and hold sticks fitted with tinkling bells which they strike during the dance in between the beats. They dance in circles singing songs of love.
The Bonds of Koraput are an interesting primitive tribe. They live on hill-tops and lead a secluded life. Their interaction with other tribes is very rare. Among many festivals of the year, the most important festival for them is known as Sume-Gelirak. All the year young men and women look forward to the festival as it gives them ample freedom in all respects. The festival starts on a Sunday and continue for ten days. During the first few days they worship their traditional Godlings and demons as well. The Sisa or the tribal priest does the rituals of sacrificing animals and birds and propitiating the deities with liquor. Then amusement through dancing and singing begin with full vigour. Young men and women make dancing expeditions to neighbouring villages and during the dance choose their life partners. But the most serious and dramatic part of the festival is castigation. It begins first with little boys. Some one takes up the drum and beats it loudly and others join with him. The boys stand in pairs, front to front, and strike each other as hard as they can with pliant branches of a tree stripped off its foliage. When they had enough of it, they salute each other and embrace, and another pair takes their place. When all the boys of the village complete this piquant exercise, the Sisa gives them cakes to stop all quarrels and delivers a little lecture of friendship and good behaviour. The following evening this castigation is repeated with young men and even the old. They bow each other with folded hands and start dancing to the frantic beats of the drums and then hitting hard with the branches. Blood flows from their wounds and watching the situation the Sisa stops them. Then they touch each others feet and embrace hugging and lifting the other in the air.
Kedu is the most important festival of the Khands of Phulbani, where they are largely concentrated. They are also found in certain areas of the districts of Ganjam and Koraput. The festival is held in different villages in different years. The place and date of the festival are decided years ahead. This festival was well-known for the human sacrifice 'Maria' which was totally stopped during the British rule in India. However to guard the religious sentiments of the tribals this has been substituted now by buffalo-sacrifice. This festival continues for five days and different rituals are prescribed for each day. The sacrifice are made on the third and the fourth days in a most cruel manner. The animal is tethered in the place of worship. Men and women get drunk, dance in frantic mood and then kill the animal by cutting its limbs piece by piece. Then they carry the blood and a piece of meat and bury it in the field where they produce turmeric. They believe that this would yield them a good crop of turmeric as red as the blood of the animal. Through this festival they propitiate the Mother Earth.
The most important festival of the Ho, Oraon, Kisan and Kol tribes is known as Maghe Parab, which is harvest festival. The festival is observed in honour of the village deity (Mother Goddess) who bestows them with good fortune and protects them from calamities. The festival is observed in different villages on different dates of the month. The ritual comprises of a sacrifice of black fowl before the deity and offering of Mahua liquor.
During the festival all of them wear new clothes. Drinking, singing and dancing together are the common traits of celebrating the festival. The tribes observe 'Damurai Parab' in the summer and 'Horo Parab' during the rains.
Toki Paraba :
(A KANDH PARAJA FESTIVAL OF KALAHANDI )
"Toki Parab" is a festival observed by the Kondh-paraja tribe of Kalahandi
and Koraput districts in the
state of Orissa. The Kandh-paraja
tribe live in the Jaipatna, Koksora,
and Thuamul Rampur Panchayat
Samities, especially in the eastern part of Kalahandi bounded by the Nawarangpur sub-division of Koraput district. Kalahandi was formerly known as 'Kondhisthan' and mainly the Kandha tribes live here. The Kandha-paraja tribe is the offshoot
of Kandha and Paraja, both belonging to the
Dravidian group. The paraja
tribe speak 'Parji' an offshoot
of Dravidian language. The total number of Parajas in the district is about five thousands (1980, 102 &
This paper has dealt with the Tokiparab or Tokimara parab a peculiar and important festival observed by the Kondh-paraja tribe of Kalahandi and Koraput districts. For the field study two Kandh-paraja villages named Paraja-nagpheni and Ranibahal, which are politically in the border of Kalahandi, but culturally are one with the Kandh-Paraja of Koraput, have been selected. In the Tokiparab festival of these two villages, hundreds of participants of Koraput district also take part as there is a bond of cultural uniformity and relation of kinship among them. Though it is a festival observed by the Kondh-Paraja tribe, thousands of people from other castes and communities of this locality also participate in the festival.
Tokiparab or Tokimara parab is one of the most important religious ceremonies of the Kondh-paraja. In the past they used to sacrifice their virgin daughters before the earth Goddess. The Kandh tribe of south east India were practising 'Meriah' or human sacrifice to appease their earth mother goddess. Even the Kandha priest were sacrificing their eldest son to earth mother Goddess for the shake of their community to get good harvest, good rain, to save their man and domestic animals from the attack of wild animals and to save their community from cholera and small pox etc,
The Kandh tribe of Kalahandi were practising Meriah2 or human sacrifice, whereas the Kanda-paraja tribe of this locality practise Tokimara-literally meaning female infanticide. In the last part of nineteenth century the Kandha were practising meriah and the Kandh-paraja were used to practising tokimara (female-infenticide). Major Campbell, the agent of supressing meriah sacrifice in Kandhisthan stopped this cruel tradition forcibly (1838; 132).
The tradition of Meriah sacrifice was patronised by the Raja and Zamindars of Thuamool Rampur Mahulpatna (present Jaipatna) and Karlapat in Kalahandi Estate. They were arranging the meriah out of their own prisoners and were getting financial gain as well as the administrative support from the furious Kandhas of their respective zamindaries. (1838; 132).
The victims for meriah were brought by the lower castes like 'Dom'3 and Ghasia4 and were offered to the Kandhas for sacrifice. (1984; p. 51). Lt. Hill has mentioned in his report that the practice of Meriah had taken place in the hill principality of Kalahandi, Patna, Khariar and Nawapara, (1838). In 1844, Cl. Owseley, the agent to the Governor General of South - West Frontier Agency reported that the practice of Meriah was prevalent in Sonepur, Khariar, Bindra Nawagarh and Bamra. Major Campbell and Captain Macdwell covered the hilly area of Koraput, Kalahandi and Phulbani to supress human human sacrifice (1851,1853). After a major operation by Campbell with the local Raja the human sacrifice and female infenticide was supressed. (1980; 57)
Suppression of Meriah is a cultural loss for Kandha and Kandh-Paraja as well. So to compensate this loss they substituted buffalo for the meriah or human sacrifice and an ewe for the female infenticide. To keep their ethnic culture and religious tradition the Kandhs perform the Pod-Puja5 (literally meaning buffalo sacrifice) in their community once in every twelve years. The buffalo brought for priest. Similarly the ewe representing the eldest daughter of the Kandh-Paraja priest is known as Toki. Toki means virgin unmarried girl and mara means sacrifice. Now the Kandh-Parajas are being presented with an ewe by their traditional kings and Zamindars of respective areas and name it as Jani-toki7 the daughter of the Priest.
It is interesting to observe how the aura of a village comes for celebrating the Festival, Toki parab. This festival falls on the preceeding or the following Sunday of the Pongal or Makar Sankranti ont the bright fortnight of Pausa (January). the festival continues for seven days. This festival falls in a Kandh-paraja village in a peculiar manner. (1986; p21-32)
During the dasahara festival; the Jani of the Village puts two pegs vertically parallel to each other on the worship ground and ties a bamboo rope on it. It looks like the English capital letter 'H' standing on the ground. When the upper ends of the pegs close up to form a shape like English letter 'A' on the ground, the priest proclaims that the festival will be observed in that village. After this declaration, the village invites all the Janis and Disaries8 (Priests and Shamans) of the Panchura9 and Pali10 (literally meaning; the villages sharing a common Goddess worshipped by them, usually five villages constitutes Panchura and twelve villages constitutes Barapali) and declares the festival Tokiparab to be observed as he has got the auspicious omen of joining two pegs in the worship place of Dharnikhal.
Then the Jani informs it to the Raja of his respective region. The Raja, as a reverence to the ritual offers an ewe to the Jani. Alongwith it the king provides some financial assistance to the Jani for the smooth management of the festival. The ewe offered by the king is known as Toki of the Jani. The Toki is named as Rasmuana. In the Panchura and Pali, the fund is collected from all the farmers to meet the expenses of the festival. As it is an agricultural festival 1, besides Kandha-Paraja, all the agriculturists contribute funds for it. The Jani, the Disari and the two village headmen of each Pali are invited to the Toki village to form a committee for the management of the festival. The invited guests from their pali are provided with lodging and fooding. These guests are the representatives of their respective village Goddesses. So they come with the Chhatra- the symbol of the Goddess.
The festival is observed for seven days with pomp and ceremony. The festival begins on wednesday; four days prior to the fatal day of the sacrifice of the Toki. The distribution of rituals over the seven days is as follows : 1. Preparation and collection of leaf and wood, 2. Gurupuja, 3. Tokipargha, 4. Sadarpuja, 5. Tokimara, 6. Dhangaridola, 7. Tangiulen.
On the first day, all the men and women of the Toki village go to the nearest forest for collecting leaves and fire wood. On this day the collection and arrangement of all the necessary things meant for the festival is made in the village by the responsible members of the committee. On this day the priest worship the DharamdebtaSun God.
The second day of the festival is known as Gurupuja12. On this day the Priest and the shaman alongwith other people of the village go to the nearby hill. The name of the hill is Gurudongar, where the Gurubudha or Budharaja the universal Gond God is seated. It is believed that all the hills and mountains are the Gudi The worship place on God and Goddess.
After worshiping Gurubudha they come to the seat of Dharanimata- earth mother goddess. In a large sacrificial axe called 'Tanni' in local language the Jani mounts the spirit of Dharnimata and brings the axe to the village. This ritual is known as Tangi-utara literally meaning the bringing down of axe from the seat of Goddess. It is the symbol of the Goddess's spirit animated in it.
The third day of festival is known as Tokipargha- worship ritual of Toki. On this day the toki is bathed with turmeric water by the women of every house. A procession of Jani and other people starts in along the village with music and dance. The toki is moved from door to door to get worshipped by the villagers. The community treats the Toki as the actual daughter of the Jani. In the evening the community eats, drinks and dances with their local dom-music and make merriment.
On the fourth day the Jani and Disari of all the villages assemble in the Toki village with their respective villages Goddess. They are treated as the representatives of their respective villages. Arrangements are made for their lodging and fooding and fooding by the Toki villagers. On this day the community cleans the road and the houses of the village.
At every entrance of the village they plant two banana trees as the sign of welcome. The Sadargudi13 is designed with the festooms of mangoleaf with folk art on the wall. The Sadargudi is in the heart of the village whereas the Dharnikhal14 or sacrificial pit of the earth Goddess is out side the village, in a grand field. The ground near Dharanikhal is meant for festival. From Sadargudi to Dharnikhal proper decorations are made by the youth of the village. In this night the priest and the Shaman of the Toki village alongwith the Priests and Shaman of other villages unite at Sadargudi. Here, right from the midnight the ritual begins with strict discipline. The Jani moves around the Sadargudi for four times folding his hands to Dharnimata. After it, the Jani put the alive ewe on a wooden mortar and crush it on a pestle again and again to pull out the fresh liver from its wounded body. The liver is kept in an earthern oare. It is called Mutpani15. It is preserved for offering near Dharanimata in Dharnikhal on the next day. Then the Jani taking an arrow in a bow shoots it aiming towards the east. This ritual is called JOGKHND BIDHA. After it a pig is sacrificed to appease all the Goddesses representing from other villages. All these rituals of the fourth day begin at midnight and finish before sunrise.
Fifth day is known as Tokimara day. The Toki is offered to the earth Goddess on this day. Villagers from all sides come to Toki village in a procession with their traditional music and warfare dance. In the procession each one has a wooden club, hand axe and big stick on their hand. They come with their symbolic village Goddess amimated in a long bamboo stick designed with red clothes and peacock feathers, and also in a big nisan (a local drum) from every village such procession come to attend the festival. When the procession enters near the gate of the village the receptionists of the Toki village receive them in a peculiar manner. Unless the banana trees posted on the both sides of the gare are not cut down with one axe, the procession never enters. It is a symbol of inviting them into the festival. Thus all the parties are invited from all sides of the village. The procession arrives on Sunday morning. On this day the whole locality irrespective of caste, age and sex come to the Toki village to attend the festival. This reception does not end up until all the parties of the invited village arrive.
A1 the time of midnoon, the Jani and Disari make proper arrangements to take the 'Toki' (deadbody of the ewe) and 'Mutpani' from the Sadargudi of the village to the Dharnikhal. It is about two hundred meters away from Sadargudi. A virgin girl from theit community is invited to carry up the earthen pot taking Tokis' mutpani. The girl is dressed with a new red saree to take part in that ritual. She takes the mutpani from Sadargudi to Dharnikhal. The Jani holds up the Toki in a Jhapi-bamboo box on his head guarded around a military array of young Kandh-parajas.
While the Jani and the girl with their respective Jhapi and earthern pot start from Sadargudi about fifty to sixty young Kandh-paraja community with their sword, hand axe, wooden club and stticks encircle them to protect the Toki and mutpani from the attack of others. They all intoxicated with liquor, are preoccupied with a sence of enthnocentricism. It is believed that if any outside plunders away even if a single hair of the Toki by any means from their array, then all the holy action and virtues made by the Toki village will be invain. As a result of loosing a hair or a piece of flesh of the Toki; they may face the loss of harvest and rain, also many unforeseen dangers in their village in forth coming year. They also believe that if any body snatches away a flesh or a hair of the Toki from the procession and offers it to his earth Goddess will be rewarded with ample harvest in forthcoming year. So while taking the Toki with mutpani from the Sadargudi to Dharnikhal the youth of the toki village try their best to save the toki from others. Inspite of all these strict arrangements made by them, the out-siders manage to take the flesh or a hair plundering from the Jani's Jhapi out of the procession may it be by force or by trick. If some outsider succeeds to get the flesh or hair from the Jani suddenly the protectors run after him with weapons to take his life. If the plunderer offers the stolen flesh to his own goddesses situated in their camp, then the attackers never do any harm to him. But if captured by them, the victim is wounded mercilessly. Instances of putting the victim to death are also heard. So in the festival the Government police from district Head-quarters are recruited to watch over them.
Thus with great care and protection the Toki, Mutpani are brought to Dharnikhal. Here the Linga is taken off out of the Dharnikhal by the Jani and put in front of the worship place. The Linga represents Dharam debta and the stone symbolizes the Dharnimata. Dharnikhal is the main worship place where one can see the symbolic images of God and Goddesses such as; the sacrificed head of a cock, a long bamboo stock designed with peacock feathers, a metal image of peacock on the metal pillar, a sacrificial axe, some arrows and a bow, a cluster of weapons like knife, spear etc.
In the worship place, the Jani alongwith the other priests start the ritual. Burning a lamp before the Goddess, throwing some rice on the sacrificial pit (Dharnikhal) the Jani begins the in vocation (as below) which is known as Pat puja mantar. All the God and Goddesses are invoked in this place and are appeased by offering different kinds of sacrifice to them accordingly.
Bapude rai denda Bapude sariso Jani
Bara bhai bhimsen Kitankani
Sola bhauni Gangadi Kitaka
Nana Dekraiti gude re
Nana maninge Saruti gude
Nana dekriti gudere
Nana maninge saruti gude
Godke Kata gala daniroye
Mundke lata gala.
Bapude rai denda bapude sariso.
I worship twelve Bhima bhimsen.16
I worship sixteen sisters Gangadei,17
I worship the Dori inside the Gudi
I worship all the Goddesses in the Gudi
Let no thorn touch my foot.
Let no creeper touch our head.
After praying all the God and the Goddesses of the whole locality the Jani takes off the mutpani from the pot. Holding it in his hands, kneeling down before the pit he recites some hymns offers it to the earth goddess. This ritual is called Tokipara. After this, the other Goddesses of the locality are worshipped by the Jani-one by one. The Jani devides the flesh of the Toki and distribute it among all the Janis of invited village. The Janis of the respective villages consider themselves fortunate to have the auspicious toki flesh and take it with reverence. After this, the gathering of the people reduces and the Jani and his followers remain there for further ritulas.
In the evening the Jani and the Disari worship the goddess. The rest flesh and bones of the ewe is burried by the Rapia- belonging to 'Dom'- a scheduled caste. The 'Rapia' is alienated as impure and unholy for that day. Next day the Jani offers a pig to the earth goddess to purify the Rapia and declares him as pure to mix with his society again.
The sixth day of the festival is known as Dhangridola. On this day the young unmarried Kandh-paraja boys and girls have freedom to choose their like mate with a socioreligious recognition in the festival ground. On this day the parents of the boys and girls have nothing to protest against their love marriage, ass the whole community gives sanction to them. The youth, on this day wearing beads around his neck, is expected to pull the hand of his beloved young girl. This system is popularly known as Malichagha, literally means wearing of beads. It symbolizes the snatching of a girl by the boy.
This is the day giving opportunity to the youth to extend love and friendship with opposite sex. The unknown boys and girls make permanent friendship ritually by addressing each other 'Baligaja' and 'Sari'. Baligaja is a type of yellow grass taking which one may be a 'Sari' or a Baligaja by tucking it on the right ear of the other. On this day many groups of girls and boys with the local music, dance and sing on the group. One group sing the love song competing to defeat the other. At this time a choir of singers with their Dungdunga and Dhap (two local musical instruments) sing the song describing God and Goddesses, hills and mountains, rivers, villages and the deities of their locality.
In the after-noon, the young girl of this community make a lovely arrangement of receiving the guests to appease them. They invite the guests to whom they choose to be their own friend or sari. The group of girls holding the hands of the guest, take him to the place of worship. They sit the guest on a cot; carrying the cot on their shoulders on four sides they move around the worship place seven times. At that time all the girls sing the song to entertain the guests. After moving around, they keep the cot in front of the Goddess and touch the feet of the guest one by one and make Juhar (obeisance). This ritual is called Dhangridola. Literally meaning a saving of the young girls. They also collect some tips; money as a regard from the guests. The singing and dancing goes on till evening. Thus the ritual of the sixth day ends.
In the seventh dy the Jani and Disari along with the newly married couple of the previous day, leads a huge procession to the Gurudongar the seat of Gurubudha. There they beg the blessing from Gurubudha. After coming from Gurudongar, they eat, drink and make merry by singing, dancing and merrimaking. At night the Jani returns the sacrificial axe to the earth goddess. After it the Jani declares the festival over. The next day the associates of the Toki village bring down the festoons of mango leaves. Thus the grand festival ends after the observation of seven days.
There is a myth found among this community as to why the Tokiparab is observed. The myth corresponds to the problem of bride price and free marriage system among the Kandh-paraja tribe. The myth is as follows :-
"In a Kandh-paraja village the Jani had a daughter named Rasamauna. After maturity her father proposed to give her in marriage with a lad of the village named Mundradharia. The negotiation was also over. Marriage date was fixed up. A few days remained for the marriage ceremony. In the meantime Rasmuana fell in love with Baplamada, another youngman of the same village. As to keep his beloved daughter's interst, the Jani cancelled the previous negotiation made with Mundradharia and married his daughter with Baplamada. Time went on. One day Rasmuna went to the nearby forest to collect fire-wood. There she saw Mundradharia- the groom proposed for her by her father earlier. She, out of passion fell in love with him in the forest and this game of love went on. Baplamada, her actual husband knew this and he went to the Jani his father-in law and told every thing. He also proposed before the Jani that he would divorce his wife as she had indulged in illicit love with Mundradharia. So he demanded the Harja18, bride price which he had paid to his father-in law during his marriage as a ritual. He also suggested the Jani to hand over his daughter to Mundradharia according to her will.
So the Jani had to return the Harja- bride taken from Bapalamada. Also he had to pay Mandpani19, fine fixed by his community for the divorce and the remarriage of his daughter. Again Jani fixed up a date for his daughter's marriage in the month Pausa. At that time the Kandh-paraja were to observe the festivalof Mariah. The community reported the Jani that no victim was found out for the sacrifice and asked him to arrange the sacrifice and asked him to arrange the sacrifice of his own for the festival. The festival arrived. No victim was found. The Jani suddenly sacrificed his own daughter Rasmuana before the Goddess. Thus it became a tradition that the Jani would give his own daughter for the sacrifice. Now the female infenticide has stopped, but instead of it an ewe is sumbolically presented to the earth goddess as a substitution.
Now, if we decompose the above myth finding its binary opposition we shall find the following sum up; "Marriage with social recognition is accepted where as violation of social rules results fine and punishment by the community. The illicit love violating the social norms causes hatted and results in the punishment like elimination of the defaulter."
In Kandh-paraja community, Jani, the religious head has so many responsibilities. Their religious belief is that the pure character and action of the Jani could save their community from the unseen dangers. The Gods and Goddesses are appeased according to the manner of worship and action of the Jani. He propitiates them by means of his own virtue and spiritual power. He is the medrator of man and spirits. So if the purity in his personality is deviated or some social norms are violated by him, it is believed that the Jani would not be abole to appease the earth Goddess, or if he does so, the result would be harmful for the whole community. So in the myth, the Jani sacrificed his own daughter, to prove himself pure and to escape from such socio-economic and psychological burden. It is a fact that, the hatred of Jani for his daughter, at the same time the need for a victim for sacrifice both the causes have doubled the problem in his mind. Individually in order to keep his priesthood status socially up, and as a community leader to manage the warfare of his society by propitiating the earth Goddess with a sacrifice, the Jani tried to kill two birds in one arrow by offering his own daughter to the earth goddess in the festival.
By doing this the Jani mentally compensated the loss of his daughter by receiving a sanction from the community on him. He has not considered it a sin as he has got rid of two problems burrying it under a religious mask. The plea by the Jani in his invocation depicte that Goddess Herself choose the victim for her sacrifice. The donor of the sacrifice bears no sin for his act. This theme has been picturized in the following invocations ;
1. Nanu kode aie papu
Siri-kamresi Kepitee Loh-kdali,
Tinjim Jane Durga.
Nanu kode aie. Nange papu hille ye.
(We bear no sin.
the Iron-weapon is taking the sacrifice,
Durga is taking the sacrifice.
For it, we bear no sin.)
2. Ita kanda tinjim jani
Meria kanda Tinjim jane.
(The sword is taking sacrifice
the weapon is eating the meria)
3. Purti susta padi, Raji susta padi,
Jada hillaretu, manda hillaretu.
Abare manbe, Balare manbe.
(Let the earth be healthy,
and let the country be healthy,
Let be no danger.)
The basic philosophy behind this 'rites do intensification' of the Kandh paraja purports the natural world view in it. According to them the earth mother Goddess and Sun god are the universal mother and father Prakriti and Purusha or Dharnimata and Dharamdebta. The living being, plants and animals, animate and inanimate are the offshoot of these two forces. As man and animal live on exploiting nature and plants, inturn the plants also exploit the man and animal absorbing it in the earth. In vedic and puranic literature this philosophy clearly speaks that "all dead things rotting corpse or stinking garbage when returned to the earth are transformed into things of beauti such as fruits and flowers and the whole some things that nourish life. Such is the alchemy of Mother Earth". (1986; P; 29; Rajgopalachary). It is a reciprocal process in which both the animal and plant live on dedicating each other through a natural law, exercised by the supernatural power. Thus this vedic philosophy and worldview of thousand years ago has attracted the mind of this land. No doubt this henious action of human sacrifice adopted by them in the ritual are inhuman, but the worldview of "Sarve bhabantu Sukhina"- let all be happy in their invocation has shown their greatness of self dedication for the shake of community.
The female infenticide is the imitation of Vedic and Tantric philosophy and rituals. The symbolic representation of Kumaribali or sacrifice of virgin girl is described as the symbol of fertility and productivity. The earth mother Goddess Herself is the symbol of fertility. Meriah is substituted with buffalo sacrifice and Tokimara with an ewe represents the symbolic form of the sacrifice. An ewe, in place of a virgin girl presented for sacrifice symbolically compensates the cultural loss of stopping female infenticide. Virginity is the symbol fertility and creativity. The ewe is regarded as the daughter of Jani. The process of worship and the tradition of ritual is obeyed with strict discipline. The mutpani which symbolizes fertility literally means the 'Urine water' of the ewe. It is the symbol of female procreative power incorporated in the Toki. Alongwith the liver of the ewe, the rice, husk and water is added in the earthen pot and all those constitute mutpani which bears the meaning of getting life, corns and ample rain respectively. Thus it represents the possibilities of getting new life and food resources on the earth. Moreover the mutpani taken to the Dharnikhal from Sadargudi by a virgin Kandh-paraja girl of ten to twelve, signifies the name and the tradition of the festival.
The phallic stone, iron weapons, Nisan-a musical drum, phallic wooden stumps, bamboo sticks with peacock feathers are the symbolic God and Goddesses of the community. The sacrificial pit of earth Goddess is the symbol of female procreative organ. The peacock model represents the totemic symbol of Kondh tribes.(1968; 120-121).
The orginal spirit of the Goddess is based in some hill, out side the village. This place is said to be the origin place of the Goddess. The discoverer of the Goddess finds her by getting some omen, sign and dream and are invited her to the village. A sabargudi is made for her, But her original spirit remains in the place of her Origin. So, during some worship or festival the spirit is invited through a ritual, e.g. in this festival the ritual of Tangi utara is followed by this process.
In the Dharnikhal the sacrifice is offered to earth Goddess and a stone is covered to protect it. Comparing the greater earth as a great sacrifice pit and the animal and nature inside the earth covered by the sky like the stone- the Jani recites the invocation the meaning of which bears the high naturalistic worldview. The meaning of the invocations are as follows;
O mother, as inside the earth pit
covered by a big stone-
The offering is secured,
This earth is a great pit,
This sky, the cover and
we nature and creatures are in-side
O mother, save us like-wise.
Social significant : The religious rites are meant to solve the problem of the community. (1980; 344). This may be examined for the present festival studied. The sixth day of Tokiparab, known as Dhangridola the love marriage of boys and girls with socio-religious recognitions and sanctions solves the problem of bride price. The social problem of Harja- bride price among the Kandh and the other communities of Kalahandi is still prevailing in the society (1878; 5). In it the bride groom pays bride price as demanded by the bride's father. Even; if a groom is unable to pay the bride price and want to marry a girl, the father of the girl may agree to adopt the boy as 'bride service' for a fixed period of time as to compensate the amount of bride. After the amount is collected from'bride service' the couple set free. But in some places where the bride's father refuses to accept the proposal of the boy, the marriage between the interested boys and girls fails. This failure is only due to the poor economic condition of the boy.
In this festival a ritual is there to avoid the bride price system. The boys and girls are allowed to marry with social and religious recognitions. The beloved Dangdi- young girl on this day is snatched by her beloved Dangda- young boy in the festival ground in front of the whole community. After getting her snatched, the couple worship the Goddess and get blessings from the priest. On this time, no parents either from the girls or from the boys side, oppose it as the now couple have the social support. No question of bride price is arosed by the bride's father. This ritual, thus, helps the loving couple getting married, who were unable to marry due to lack of providing, bride price. This ritual is known as Dhangarighicka;
More over, the guests and participants honoured by the young Kandh-paraja girls in the ritual of Dhangridola, irrespective caste and creed shows the oneness in tribal culture shared by the non-tribals. the Raja, the Bramhins, the village headmen and the other gentlemen are invited for this ritual. Thus the entertaining of the guests in this festival shows the intetaction among the tribal and nontribal cultures.
Though it is a festival of a community, the other communities alos take part in it by contributing money and helps. As this is a festival to pay reverence to the earth goddess, also to assure more harvest in future, all the peasants of the society, irrespective of caste and creed take part in it. The non tribals also believe the philosophy of Kandh-paraja and want to burry some flesh of the Toki in their field to get ample harvest. So the influence of the tribal culture among the nontribals of this locality is seen in this festival.
In this world man exploit the men after exploiting the nature. But the traditional people of this land bear the naturalistic world view in their way of thinking, which has been symbolically represented in their rites and rituals. The equlity of man and nature keeping the balance of the earth basing on reciprocal dependance is the sole philosophy of the people of this locality. Here no difference is seen in between the animal and nature- as both are the creature of a supernatural power Dharnimata- the earth mother Goddess.
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