HAPPY NUAKHAI from the land of Odisha
It Nuakhai time once again in western Odisha and perhaps the best place to witness and celebrate this festival is at Sambalpur-the gateway to Western Odisha.
Nuakhai is the most important social festival of western Odisha. It happens during Aug-September, a day after Ganesh Chaturthi. Basically a harvest festival, Nuakhai is celebrated by cooking the first grains of paddy and offering it to the Gods. People greet each other and distribute the cooked food among other members of the family.
Its normal practice in western Odisha districts that people working far off places choose to come to their native places on this auspicious day. They spend day together with traditional food preparation and seek blessings of family elders.
India’s celebrated culture of respecting elders and celebrating with agricultural produce and going to the lap of almightily for peace and prosperity go hand in hand in a single date.
Despite the festival being celebrated in the peak monsoon season, the devotees turn out in large numbers to throng the temple of Maa Samaleswari, the presiding deity of Sambalpur. People also offer thanks to the Mother Earth on this occasion and carry the belief that Nuakhai frees them from sorrows, diseases and loss of crops.
After offering the new rice to the Goddess, the entire family assembles together and taked the rice along with muga bara, ras bara, mega manda, suji manda, chaul manda, kakara pitha, mandha pitha, khiri, puri, preparations of saru patra, makhan sag and kardi. In the evening meat is cooked in most of the households. According to legends, people who avoid meat on Nuakhai will be reborn as herons. Nuakhai bhetghat is also organized by various socio-cultural organizations to celebrate the occasion.
Place to visit:
Sambalpur is situated about 320 km away from Bhubaneswar and was once known as an important diamond trading centre. Along with its rich folk songs and dances, the place is world fmous for its handloom fabrics. However, a tourist should not miss visiting the following places.
Samaleswari Temple: Maa Samaleswari, the presiding deity of Sambalpur resides here. It is one of the most powerful ‘Shakti Peethas’ of Western Odisha and neighbouring Chhatisgarh. Located on the banks of the river Mahanadi, the temple was originally built by King Balaram Dev of Chowhan dynasty under a Simuli tree in the mid 16th century AD. The idol consists of a slab of granite rock and is ornamented to look just like a face. There are many important festivals celebrated throughout the year.
Hirakud Dam: Located 15 km to the north of Sambalpur, Hirakud dam is the longest man-made dam in the world. The reservoir forms the largest artificial lake of Asia with an area of 746 sq km and a shoreline of over 640 km. A visitor can take a 21 km drive on the dyke to view the surroundings and also get a beautiful sight of the dam from the top of the revolving Gandhi minar nearby.
Besides these, the other places of tourist interest in Sambalpur are Huma, the leaning temple; Ghanteswari; the light hose without light; Pradhanpat waterfall; Ushakothi, the wildlife sanctuary; Chiplima, the hydro-electric project of Hirakud dam; the temples of Nrusinghanath and Harishankar and Vikramkhol caves.
How to reach Sambalpur
Sambalpur is well connected by both road and rail to the state capital Bhubaneswar. There are also many trains reaching here from other parts of the country like New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Bokaro via Jharsuguda junction nearby.
The nearest airport is Raipur at 270 km. Bhubaneswar airport is at a distance of 320 km from Sambalpur.