Odisha’s Agrarian festival – Nuakhai

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You might wonder why Nuakhai is Western Odisha’s most important social festival.

Even with a looming drought, Nuakhai was celebrated with pomp and gaiety in the entire length and breadth of Western Odisha.

People celebrated the traditional agrarian festival by praying for peace, prosperity and well-being of everyone.

The presiding deity of Sambalpur ‘Maa Samleswari’ was offered the ‘Navanna’ (rice cooked out of new grains of newly harvested paddy crop) as per ‘lagna’ (propitious moment) fixed between 8.20 AM to 8.35 AM on Friday i.e September 18, 2015.

After ‘Maa Samleswari’ was offered with new food, the same ritual was conducted before the ‘Gram Devi’ (village deity) in every other village.

‘Navanna’ is offered to the Mother Goddess to seek Her blessings for a bumper crop in the next harvest season.

Nuakhai, primarily an agrarian festival imbued with the rituals of the fertility cult, is an occasion for people across western Odisha to express their gratitude to Mother Earth for sustaining them and to invoke Her blessings for better productivity in the coming agricultural season.

Similar offerings were made at Pataneswari temple in Bolangir district and Sureswari temple in Subarnapur.

After propitiation of Mother Goddess, people paid their respect to the elders in the family and locality through ‘Nuakhai Juhar’. Others exchanged ‘Nuakhai Bhetghat’ greetings among themselves. Various delicacies and cakes prepared from the new rice were also exchanged with relatives and friends on this occasion.

The traditional Nuakhai festival has been celebrated in Odisha since the ancient era.

The Origin of the festival

According to local researchers Nuakhai is of fairly ancient origin. Some researchers found the fundamental idea of the celebration can be traced back at least to Vedic times when the rishis (sages) had talked of panchayajna, the five important activities in the annual calendar of an agrarian society.

Although the origin of the festival has been lost over time, oral tradition dates its back to the 12th century AD, the time of the first Chauhan Raja Ramai Deo, founder of the princely state of Patna which is currently part of Balangir district in Western Odisha.

Thus credit can be given to Raja Ramai Deo for making Nuakhai a symbol of Sambalpuri culture and heritage.

Odisha, as you see, is a hotbed of culture, diversity, and art! It’s an experience which has to be seen to be understood, and we encourage you to come and witness all its festivals.