Odisha is not only a land of magnificent monuments, golden beaches, precipitous waterfalls, sprawling lakes, healing hot springs, luxuriant forest, intricate handicraft etc. but also a land of colourful fairs and festivals. Every season in Orissa has a variety of occasions to celebrate. Many of the festivals are observed at more than one place on the same occasion. While the rituals remain the same, the ways they are, observed differ from place to place at times. Those who have no time to visit all the places to see the difference can choose the place where they are best observed.
Lok Mohotsava (January)
To bring the Folk dance and music of Odisha to limelight, the Lok Mahotsava is organized every year at Gangadhar Mandap in the town of Sambalpur for three days. The towns wears a new look on those days and the entire atmosphere is surcharged with the beating of dhol and sweet melody of sehnai .
Makar Mela (January)
Makar Sankanti is celebrated with gusto in mid-January when the sun enters the orbit of Capricorn. The sun God is worshipped with great favor and enthusiasm by one and all. The festival can be best enjoyed at Kalijai (an island in Chilika Lake), Atri, Ghatgaon, Keonjhar, Jashipur and Jagatsinghpur.
Saraswati Puja (January-February)
It is also known as Vasanta Panchami (fifth day of Spring) and it marks the end of Winter and advent of spring. Saraswati is the goddess of learning and as such this festival is celebrated most ardently by the school and college students to pray for success in their academic pursuits. Thousands of clay idols are worshipped in the academic institutions, in public places and in homes. The next day the idols are taken in procession to rivers, ponds and seas and immersed. This immersion of idols is a common feature of all the festivals in which they are installed for worship. In some places the immersion cakes place on the 3rd, 5th or 7th day of the worship.
The most popular and colourful festival of Konark is Magha Mela, on the6th- 7th day of the bright half of the month of ‘Magha’ (January-February). The pilgrims from nearby areas assemble on the night of 6th day at Chandrabhaga beach, worship the local deities, and take holy dips in the Chandrabhaga tank on the confluence of the Bay of Bengal next morning and welcome the rising Sun with prayers. The holy dip here and payin homage to the Sun God on this day is considered sacred as Konark is known as Arka Kshetra, the seat of the Sun God This is an occasion to observe the local populace in their traditional colours and costumes. This is the second largest festival of Orissa in terms visitors turn out.
Shiva Ratri (February)
This is one of the most prominent festivals of the Saivites in Orissa. Owing to the presence of a large number of temples of Siva, the festival is celebrated widely. It is also known as Jagara jatra which refers to the night-long vigil kept by the devotees, especially women, to have their desires fulfilled. In many places the celebration of the festival is marked by the organisation of fairs of different kinds. The most notable places for this festival are the Lokanath temple (Puri), Lingaraj temple (Bhubaneswar), Kapilas temple (Dhenkanal) and Nrusinghnath temple (Balangir).
Dolapurnima or Holi-Festival of Colors (March-April)
It is the most famous spring festival of India. Usually celebrated in March It has special properties in its celebration in Orissa where it is a five day affair, especially in the rural areas. The images of Krishna are worshipped form Dashami (10th day of the bright fortnight) to the full moon day. The images are taken in decorated vimans, small wooden temples, carried on the shoulders of bearers from house to house where offerings are made to them. After the tour of the village the vimanas from different villages are assembled in an open field and the time is spent in bhajana and kirtan. Jatras and palas are also held in the area. The day after the full moon day people throw coloured water on one another and smear each others faces with coloured powder.. The festival is specially important for cattle owing to their association with the cowherd boy Krisllna. They are bathed, anointed with vermillion, garlanded and fed sumptuously. The festival is connected with the destruction of the demon Holikasura or the she-demon Holika by making a bonfire, for which the festival is called Holi.
Tara Tarini mela(March-April)
‘Taratarini Mela’ one of Odisha’s biggest fairs, takes places on each Tuesday in the month of ‘Chaitra’ from around mid-march to mid- April at Taratarini pith , 30 kms. From Berhampur.Agrand congregation takes place on the 3rd Tuesday.
The Car Festival of Lord Lingaraj at Bhubaneswar, Asokasami is held in the bright half of ‘Chaitra’ . The Protagege of Lord Lingaraj is taken out in a chariot from the main temple to Rameswar temple and returned after a four-day stay with Mausi Maa
The ‘Chaitra Parba’ or Chhau Festival commences from 10th/11th April every year and continues for three days and concluding on ‘Maha Vishuva sankranti Day’ at Baripada. This is a festival of festival which is enjoyed by the people of th country and the enthusiasta from abroad.
The celebration of marriage ceremony of Lord Siva with Goddess Parvati starts with the untying of the wedding knot of the divine couple.Devotees act as their parents to perform the marriage ceremony.The bridegroom’s procession populary known as ‘Barat’ starts from the 5th night of the bright half of Jyestha and the marriage is performed in the traditional manner.The festival can be best enjoyed at Sambalpur &Bhubaneswar.
Ratha Yatra known as car festival is grandest of all festivals of Odisha. It is the sacred journey of Jagannath with brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra from the main Jagannath Temple to another shrine called Gundicha Mandir for nine days. It is the begins from the 2nd day bright half of ‘Asadha’which falls in June-July every year. Thousands and thousands and thousands devotees from all over India and abroad throng on the rivers.
Ganesh Puja (August-September)
It is also a festival of students mostly, but adults participate in it eagerly as tire god, son of Sival is the remover of all obstacles the path of success in ones endeavours. Ganesh has the head of an elephant supposed to have been grafted on his trunk after his head was destroyed by theevil look of the god Saturn. He is famed for his intellectual brilliance and so students are attracted to him to achieve similar powers.
Another famous festival observed in the temple of Jagannath ill many temples and mathas and also in household shrines. Devotees fast throughout the day and break it only after the symbolic birth of Krishna takes place al midnight. Krishnas birth heralds the hope for the destruction of the demon Kansa and so it becomes memorable as the eventual triumph of good over evil. EM Forster has immortalized this festival in A Passage to India
Durga Puja (September-October)
Symbolises the commemoration of good over evil. Life comes to a stand-still in the city of Cuttack as crowds pour over the Puja Mandaps to enjoy the festivities. On the day succeeding Vijaya Dasami, the last day of Dussera, the images are taken in a spectacular procession for immersion in the river Kathajodi.
Lakshmi Puja (September-October)
Observed with much pomp and ceremony in Dhenkanal town, it commences from the full moon day of Aswin and continues for a period of one week. Goddess Lakshmi, believed to be the Goddess of Wealth is worshipped in decorated pandals as during Durga Puja. An Exhibition of Handicrafts and Handloom products is also organized.
Diwali & Kalipuja (October-November)
It is a festival of light when houses and business premises are colourfully illuminated and tastefully decorated. Many business houses begin their new accounts on this day by offering their worship to Goddess Lakshmi. Goddess Kali is also worshipped on this occasion. Fire works are the highlights of the Festival. It is observed throught out the State, especially in urban & industrial areas.
To commemorate the glorious past of maritime trade of Orissa with the islands of Bali, Java, Sumatra etc., people float paper boats with sacred lamps placed on them in the rivers & ponds on the full moon day of Kartik. A big fair called “Bali Yatra“ is held on Mahanadi riverbank at Cuttack for one week It is a fair of the local craft & cuisine.
Dhanu Yatra (December-January)
Dhanu Yatra relating to the episode of Lord Krishna ‘svisit to Mathura to witness the ceremony of ‘Bow’ and eventually kill the Demon king Kansa is re-enacted in the form of a folk play on natural settings at Bargarh. The town of Bargarh becomes Mathura, the river Jira becomes Yamuna and the village, Amapalli on the other bank of the river becomes Gopa. Different acts of the Puranic descriptions are performed at their right places and the spectators move from place to place to see the performance. It is the largest open-air theatre of the World, spread over five km. radius with the largest cast as even the spectators are treated as characters. It starts from the 5th day of the bright half of Pausa with the marriage ceremony of Basudev & Devaki and ends on the full moon day with the death of Kansa.