Nuakhai; the festival of Western Odisha to welcome new crops

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Bhubaneswar, Sept 6: Today is ‘Bhadraba Suklapakshya Panchami’, the day bears the importance as because people of Western Odisha and neighbouring areas celebrate this day as Nuakhai. This festival is basically agrarian by nature and has a special significance in the social and cultural life of Western Odisha. As agriculture is the only passion and profession of most of the Indian states, many festivals of India relate to agriculture only. This is the festival which relate to the sentiment of the people, who work hard throughout the year and finally become extremely happy when they see the fresh crops in their paddy fields. They further start rejoicing the occasion in a special way and that is the occasion of Nuakhai.

This Navanna or Nuakahi festival gives a specific attention to Anna(rice) as it is the staple food of western Odisha people. So, it is the day, people worship the food grain or rice as it is the manifestation of life itself. Besides worshiping Anna, this festival exhibit the age old tradition of respecting the elders as elders first accept Nua on the day of celebration and further distributes to others. Also, juniors offer their regards to elders after accepting Nua. This is the occasion, people to lay their differences to rest.  

On the day of Nuakhai, the rituals are first observed at the temple of the reigning deity of the area or at village deity. Further, people worship in their respective houses and offer rituals to their domestic deities and to Laxmi. After the ritual, all wear new dresses on the occasion and eat Prasad prepared from new rice. As per the tradition, after offering the nua to the deities, the eldest member of the family offer nua to other member of the family. Then, starts Nuakhai Juhar, which is the exchange of greetings with friends, well-wishers and relatives. The youngsters offer respect to their elders and the elders bless to young. This includes exchange of greetings with relatives, family members and members of other communities as well. Further the relatives, family members and guests eat together in groups. Different types of games and sports are organised in the locality to make the festival interesting. In the evening,Nuakhai Bhetghat meetings, folk cultural events like Dalkhai, Rasarkeli etc are organised which become quite enjoyable. This is the day; people forget their differences and start relationship afresh. Not only in the family, people meet each other outside the house and exchange greetings. To be part and parcel of the celebration, people remaining away from their native places generally come home to celebrate Nuakhai with family and relatives. This is a unified force between the people of Western Odisha living in different parts of the country and abroad.

Originally, the preparation for Nuakhai begins two weeks ahead of the date and it passes through so many phases like Beheren(announcement of a meeting to set the date), Lagna Dekha(setting the exact date and time of celebration), Daka-Haka(Invitation), Ghira-Bika(purchasing), Nua Dhan Khuja(looking for new crop), Bali Paka(final resolve for Nuakhai by taking the Prasad to deity), Nuakhai(eating the new crop as Prasad), Juhar Bhet(respect to elders).Therefore, there was not a common day for the celebration of this festival. However, in 1991 the then chief minister of Odisha late Biju Patnaik passed a order to celebrate the occasion on the day of the ‘Bhadraba Suklapakshya Panchami’, the following day of Ganesh Puja, which has been declared a State Holiday.

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