Wednesday, June 7, 2023
Odisha (Orissa)

Fairs and Festivals


This spectacular chariot festival is held at the famous Jagannath temple at Puri. Rathyatra is also known as Car festival. This festival is celebrated in the month of Asadha, according to the Hindu calendar, on the second day of the lunar fortnight that falls during June-July.

Rathyatra is celebrated in honour of God Jagannath who is believed to be an incarnation of Vishnu. One of the many legends goes that Indradyamana, the king of Avanti went to Puri to have darshan of Vishnu but he found that the god had disappeared. The sage Narada assured Indradyamana that Vishnu would appear to him in the temple  form of 3 wooden images. When a big tree, radiant with light was seen floating in the sea, Narada told him to make 3 idols out of it and place them in a pavilion. Indrayamana got Visvakarma the architect of Gods, to build a magnificent temple to house the idols and Vishnu himself appeared in the guise of a carpenter to make  the idols on condition that he was to be left undisturbed until he finished the work. Unable to restrain his curiosity, Indrayamana went to see Vishnu at work at which the latter abandoned his work leaving the images unfinished. But a divine voice told Indrayaman to install them in the temple.

The 3 images represent the god Jagannath, his elder brother, Balabhadra and their sister, Subhdra. On the day of the festival the images are taken out in procession in three chariots to their summer temple for a week. The main chariot is 14 metres high and 10 metres square with 16 wheels. The ropes of the huge chariots are pulled by millions of devotees. In earlier times devotees would occasionally throw themselves infront of the chariot of Sri Jagananath, for it was believed that to be crushed to death under its sixteen wheels was to go straight to heaven. Since Sri Jagannath is a form of Vishnu and Sri Krishna many of the rituals observed in the Puri temple are associated with events in the life of Sri Krishna. Thus the annual car festival represents Sri Krishna's Journey from Gokul to Mathura.

Pana Samkranti

Pana Samkranti or Chhatua Samkranti is celebrated to mark the first day of the solar month. On this day a small pot with a hole at the bottom filled with 'pana' or sweet drink is hung on a basil (Tulsi) plant. The falling of water from the pot symbolizes the falling of rain and thus this Samkranti marks the commencement of rainy season and of the cultivation cycle. The people of coastal Odisha (Orissa) ceremonially consume the flour of horse gram (chhatua) after offering it to the basil plant.

Akshaya Trutiya

This festival is celebrated on the third day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Vaishakha. This important festival is held in every farming household. It is characterised by the ceremonial sowing of paddy in the field. Oblation is offered to the goddess of destiny, 'Shathi'. This is the most auspicious day to start the construction of house buildings, digging of tanks and wells. This is the day on which the construction of the chariots for Ratha Jatra of Lord Jagannath and his brother and sister starts.


Raja is one of  the most popular festivals of Odisha (Orissa), though it is not observed in western Odisha (Orissa). The first day of the Raja festival  is always celebrated in the last day of the solar month of Jaishtha.  The festival continues for three days. It is believed that the Earth goddess had started to menstruate on the first day of the Raja and after the third day she is taken to a ritual bath and returned to normalcy. So this is called as the menstruation period of the earth, so the earth is to be avoided like a woman. Therefore men and women avoid touching the earth. Practically for three days there is a complete stoppage of work and especially boys and girls take to the swing and sing the typical Raja songs. Singing, merry-making, feasting  and display of gymnastic feats and playing games become the most important preoccupations for this three days. On the fourth day, when the earth is ritually clean and is ready for fertilization, the ceremonial ploughing is undertaken in the paddy fields.

Chitau Amavasya

This is celebrated on the new moon day of the lunar month of Shravana. A special type of rice cake called 'chitau' is offered to Lord Jagannath at the temple. This cake is prepared and eaten with relish in almost every household. Gendeisuni, the goddess of snails and oysters is duly worshipped. These creatures are offered cakes and requested not to bruise the feet of farmers when they go to remove weeds from the fields.


A widely practiced custom among the tribal as well as non-tribal population of Odisha (Orissa) is the offering of the first fruits to the deities, especially to the village deities. Paddy is the most important crop which is considered as Goddess Lakshmi. There is a special variety of early paddy which is already ripe by this time. A porridge made of new rice is offered to the ancestral spirits and to the local deities.

Gahma Purnami

This festival is celebrated as a merry festival of 'Gahma Pumei', on the full moon day of the lunar month of Shravana and is especially auspicious to agriculturists. On this day, cattle, especially plough cattle, are colourfully decorated and given special offering and are worshipped as 'Go-Lakshmi'. That is the day of rest for the cattle. This festival has much attraction for some tribal groups like the Hill Bhuiyan of Odisha (Orissa) that in these lean months of semi-starvations.