Shiva Ratri is the most important festival in the annual
cycle of rituals which is celebrated in the month of Phalguna (February-March.).
The fair draws pilgrims from villages and towns around and devotees fast till
after mid-night when the sacred lamp (Mahadeepa) is taken to the temple spire.
Beginning with the Purnima or the full moon day in the lunar
month of Phalguna. The Radha and Krishna images from the Vaishnava temples begin
the ritual journey to some important centres of congregation or Melana.
With Holy or sprinkling of red 'abir' powder and chanting of bhajan and kirtan,
the devotees come in a procession with images of Radha and Krishna carried in
the Vimanas to the site of the fair. The deities pay a visit to several villages
on their outing and receive homage and offerings from devotees. At the site of
the fair chanting if spiritual songs and recitation of the Bhagavata and other
scriptures are usually organised.
In western Orissa this ceremonially inaugurates the just use of green mango,
Chaar berries, Mahul flower and paluash flower-all jungle fruits, flowers
offered to deities. This is known as 'Gundithaai Parba' in western Orissa.
This all -India festival is celebrated in a few important
villages and towns in Orissa in the month of Chaitra (March-April). The masks of
Rama, Ravana and others of the Ramayana myth are worn by characters in a
dramatic re-enactment of the epic happenings. This is accompanied by music and
singing and is presented in the form of folk opera. The burning of the huge
effigies as practiced elsewhere in India is not prevalent in Orissa. The fair is
held in honour of Lord Rama to celebrate the victory of virtue over vice Ravana.
Patua Jatra and Chandak
These are allied to the Banda Jatra described for month of Vaishakha and
aimed at propitiation of Lord Shiva for boons. The months of Chaitra and
Vaishakha are specially sacred for Shiva worshippers or the 'lower castes'
presumably derived from Buddhist society. The same physical tortures for
spiritual benefit are undergone and they overlap in time and in the rituals
with the variations of Dand Jatra.