Durga Puja is one of the major festivals in Odisha, every year it observed between the month of September to October. In the land of distinct cultural heritage, celebrates multiple religious festivals throughout the entire year. Some of these festivals also resemble some particular regions of this state.
There is a saying in Odia “bara masa tera parba” it means Odisha celebrates 13 festivals in 12 months. It indicates that these festive seasons are lively and happening, marked by colorful processions along with a huge gathering all day long. This year in 2021 Durga Puja in India will begin on Monday, 11 October, and ends on Friday, 15 October.
The entire region carouses in a festive atmosphere, among all this one of the most important and vibrant festivals are “Durga Puja” especially Hindus in Odisha.
In states like West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, and Tripura, Durga Puja is called as Akalbodhan which ultimately means the awakening of Maa Durga.
The Saradiya Durga Puja is celebrated in the month of September or October accordingly with great happiness and joy.
As per Hindu scripture, Durgostab continues for 10 days, but it actually begins from Mahalaya Amavasya known as Khadi Lagi, as on that day” khadi” means chalk paste is applied on the idol as a prime coat.
This ritual is performed behind a screen and no one can see other than “Kumharas” who built the idol and “Chitrakar” (the painters.)
During this time they maintain asceticism and do not eat non- vegetarian food or consume alcoholic beverages.
Durga puja signifies the victory of good over evil. The idol also memorializes the power of women symbolized as “Nari Shakti”. Keeping this concept in mind the idols are made accordingly.
The festive soul completely inundated people with the idol of ten armed semi fierce Goddess Durga seated on a huge lion beneath her feet defines her power. Some idols also have Lord Shiva, Ganesh, Sarawati, Laxmi, Kartikeswar or the demon Mahishasur along with it.
Tradition of Odisha
As stated in Odia tradition it is believed that except Lord Shiva and demon Mahishasur all other deities are children of Goddess Durga. Maa Durga came to her natal home to visit her beloved and her children once, which is marked as Maa Durga’s journey.
Pandals are made to perform the rituals which are called “Medho” in Odisha or the rituals are continued in Shakti Peeth for about ten to sixteen days called “Shodasa”.
In Khandayat families there is a tradition of Shastra Puja meaning, “worship of weapons” with specific rites and rituals in Maha Ashtami, generally known as Khanda Puja. This signifies the power of Goddess Durga.
It can be said these ten days are a grand celebration for all the locals. During these days, the priest chants powerful “mantras” and sings devotional songs to worship the bravery of the Goddess.
Basically the most important is the last five days named Sasthi, Maha Saptami, Maha Astami, Maha Navami and Bijaya Dasami. Each day the priest chants different mantras during both dawn and dusk.
Though Durga Puja is celebrated at each corner of Odisha, still now Cuttack city is recognized as the best for its idiosyncratic status. This city is unique because it was the first district that started making Silver, Gold jewelry, and backdrops called “Medho” for the idols.
This city is as illuminated as no one can beat to its decorations and lighting. The idol of the Goddess is ravishingly embellished with pleasing and fragrant flowers, decorated with pristine pieces and bright lights.
The most expensive installation till date has been the suna (Gold) medho, of Choudhury Bazar, the shopping center of Cuttack. The idol’s crowns, ornaments, and few parts of medho are made of gold.
One of the specialties of this city is that these golds are used only during Durga Puja and not in any other festivals. Likewise, many other places of Cuttack uses gold jewelry and crowns for all the idols in Durga Puja.
Though Puri is famous for Jagannath temple and Sea beaches, Gosani Yatra of Puri catches all the attention during Durga Puja.
The origin of Gosani yatra is in folk culture. In this festival every year several idols of Mahisha Mardini Maa Durga are worshiped. Different other figures like Ravana lifting Kailash Mountain, Demons, huge images of Nagas are also made and worshiped along with the main deity.
The Naga images symbolise the Akhada culture of Puri.
At this festival Gosani figures are portrayed in such a manner, conveying an impression that Devi (Goddess) is closely observing Mahisasur and engrossed in fierce Fighting. Another fact of this festival is here the demons are delineated in theriomorphic form, it’s like Buffalo head inHuman body.
During Durga Puja Maha Ashtami, the eighth day of the festival, women of Western Odisha are seen performing a ritual known as Bhai Juntia.
It is believed that these ladies fast for a day and pray for their brother’s long life.
The puja begins full of energy, glory, and elegance from the evening of Sasthi with Bela Barana, these leaves are used in welcoming Goddess with arati. During Morning and evening the Dhak Dhol (Drums), Ghanta (bell), and blowing of shankh (conch shells) can be heard from the pandals.
People come from different places to visit and enjoy their festive mood by attending pandals, exchanging gifts, distributing sweets, wearing new clothes, shopping, family visits, music, dance and feasting.
As per the mythology “Ravan Dahan” is celebrated every year on this day as Lord Ram killed the 10 headed Ravana. It is often metaphorized as the ‘victory of good over evil’. It is celebrated in Cuttack Baliyatra ground; a large number of people gather together to witness the firework and cultural program.
Ravana’s gigantic effigy sets a fire on the banks of Mahanadi.
This Ravan Podi Utsav is also organized every year at Baramunda, Nayapalli, Jharpada, and Naharkanta of Bhubaneswar areas of Odisha. Durga puja festival comes to an end with the burning of the huge carving of Demon king Ravana on Vijaya Dashami.
Ravan Podi is celebrated in many other places in Odisha as well.
This is the tenth day of the festival and an extreme reverence time for women. Women of Odisha actively join in sindoor (vermilion) khela, where ladies put sindoor to Goddess Durga and play sindoor with each other.
Significance of sindoor khela
It is said when a married woman returns from the natal home she has to put sindoor by other married ladies on her forehead, wishing good luck for her rest of the married life.
Same thing is applied to Goddess Durga as Vijaya Dasami is the last day for maa and the Goddess has to go back.
This is a great ritual performed in Odisha.
The next day of Vijaya Dasami is Bhasani, millions of devotees gather together at one place to put up a goodbye to Maa Durga and promise to wait for the same time again next year.
All the puja committee gets permission from the authority and stands up with grand procession lighting and loud music. Specific directions are also permitted about which road the procession has to pass by.
In Cuttack City, hawkers and paddlers, local street food, and visitors are filled in the roads. These days the immersion of idols is done in a temporary pond dug on Kathajodi Riverbank.
This is done to reduce water pollution during the festive season; few ponds are created named Devigada and Khannaghar. These are the only two places where the idols are submerged into water.
Odisha serves to be a land of vibrant festivals, the state holds great importance to each festival, with some of the special rituals attached to each adds more flavor to the landscape of Odisha’s cultural heritage.
This state offers its native and visitors both to enjoy and have real fun.