Oriya Festivals

Makar Sankranti: It is celebrated on the occasion of uttarayan (northward journey) of the Sun-god. A special semi-liquid preparation called Makara Chaula is offered to the god as prasad and distributed among one and all. (Makara Chaula is prepared by combining semi-pasted rice, milk, scrubbed coconut, banana, chopped cucumber, cottage cheese, sugar, ginger and black pepper – all stirred together).

Sri Panchami: This day students seek the blessings of Devi Saraswati – the goddess of arts and learning. Puja is performed before the image of the goddess and students fast till they make a floral offering (pushpanjali) to her around mid-day. Maha Shiva Ratri: It is the day of Lord Shiva’s appearance in the universe. To celebrate the occasion devotees of Lord Shiva perform pujas in temples during the day. There is a custom of remaining awake throughout the night by chanting or listening to hymns in praise of Lord Shiva.
Phagu Dasami: This is the celebration of romantic union of Radha and Krishna. Beginning this day images of both Radha and Krishna are placed on a swing and are worshipped by smearing them with abir (coloured powder). This ritual continues till Dola Purnima.

Dola Purnima: This is the concluding day of six-day long worship of Radha and Krishna, which starts on Phagu Dasami. It is celebrated on the full moon day in the oriya month of Falguna. The colour festival of holi is celebrated usually on the day following Dola Purnima.

Rama Navami: As in the rest of India, Rama Navami is also celebrated throughout Orissa as the birth day of Lord Rama. It is also the celebration of his wedding with goddess Sita. Pujas are offered by visiting the temples of Lord Rama.

Chaitra Purnima: A month-long puja of goddess Mangala begins this day (usually on all Tuesdays of the month). Fishermen worship their fishing net, boat and the waters seeking blessings of the almighty for prosperity.
Akshaya Trutiya: It is the day when farmers auspiciously begin sowing seeds of paddy in their fields. This is also known as ‘muthi anukula’. The process of construction of the grand chariot of Lord Jagannath for the occasion of Rath Yatra also begins this day by following the prescribed rituals. Sudasha Brata: Sudash Brata is observed whenever there is a combination of (1) Shukla Paksha (2) Thursday and (3) Dasami. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped during the day by offering ten Manda Pithas in puja (see Oriya Foods page for recipe of Manda Pitha ). A sacred thread (consisting of ten layers of thread) is prepared in the prescribed manner and tied by women on their arms until the arrival next occasion of Sudasha Brata (when the thread is replaced again). To know more about the ritual, you may download the traditional Sudasha Brata Katha in Oriya by clicking on the link available at the bottom of this page

Maha Vishuba Sankranti: It is also known as Mesha Sankranti. It is on this day that Sun enters the sign Libra. The Oriya community celebrates New year on the occasion. A sweet concoction known as pana is prepared and distributed among one and all. (Pana is prepared by mixing different types of fruits, water, milk, pulp of bela, curd and sugar). This day is also marked by literary get-togethers. Savitri Brata: It is observed by all married women for the well-being of their husbands. Women performing the puja have to observe fasting during the day and read out or listen to Savirti Brata Katha which is a poetic rendition of how Maha Sati Savitri saved her husband from the clutches of Yamaraj by dint of her virtues and devotion. (You may download the Savitri Brata Katha in Oriya and English by clicking on the links available at the bottom of this page.) It is a custom for women to receive money on the occasion from their parents / brothers towards expenses for the puja.

Shitala Sasthi: This is the celebration of Lord Shiva’s wedding with goddess Parvati. In villages the wedding celebrations are arranged in a grand manner. The Marriage procession (barat) of Lord Shiva is organized and delicacies are distributed among people in celebration of the celestial wedding.

Raja: During this three-day period of Raja, women get their right to rest and merri-making. They are not supposed to work during these days. Swings are tied under branches of large trees so that women and girls could enjoy swinging while the husbands and other male-members in the family take care of cooking. It is customary to relish Poda Pitha (see Oriya Foods page for recipe) during the festival. Women are strictly forbidden to perform puja of any kind either at home or in the temples during this period of three days.

Ratha Yatra: Lord Jagannath along with his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra comes out of the precincts of his temple in Puri for a visit to his aunt’s place at Gundicha Mandir which is about five kms away. The three deities undertake their journey in three huge chariots pulled by thousands of devotees. It is said that it is an occasion for Lord Jagannath to give an opportunity of his darshan to the people whose entry is forbidden into his temple. (Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple). Though this festival had its beginning in Puri, now-a-days it is also being observed through out the world, where ever there are temples of Lord Jagannath.
Bahuda Yatra: It is the day of return journey of Lord Jagannath from the Gundicha Mandir. It is celebrated with the same pomp and gaiety as that of Ratha Yatra.

Chitalagi Amabasya: Also known as Chitau Amabasya. Lord Jagannath is embellished with a golden mark on the forehead called Chitta this day. In homes a special pitha known as Chitau Pitha is prepared and offered to Lord Jagannath in Puja (See recipe on our ‘Oriya Foods’ page.)

Gamha Purnima: The practice of tying rakhis on the wrists of brothers this day is only a recent phenomenon in Oriya community as imitated from the north Indian communities. Originally in Orissa this day marks the worship of Lord Balabhadra. Bullocks and cows are also worshipped by smearing their heads with sindur. The youngsters gather in the streets and demonstrate a traditional high jumping skill called Gamha Dian.

Ganesh Chaturthi: Ganesh Chaturhi is observed by the Oriya community for invoking the blessings of Lord Ganesha as is the custom among other communities in India. Students observe fasting in the day till they make a floral offering (pushpanjali) before the image of Lord Ganesha seeking his blessings for acquiring wisdom.
Nuakhai: It is celebrated as a way of thanks giving to Mother Earth. Celebrated especially in western orissa on a predetermined day in the Oriya month of Bhadrab it features partaking of the first grains of paddy after harvesting the kharif crop. All in the family and community join together to partake of the holy offering in leaf cups sitting on the ground facing towards east.

Apara Paksha: It marks the beginning of a period of 15 days to perform shraddha for paying tributes to one’s departed ancestors. It is performed wishing peaceful stay of the departed ones in heaven.
Dasahara: As in other states in India, Dasahara also marks the end of four-day long Durga puja celebrations in Orissa. On this day the valedictory puja of Devi Durga is done, and the earthen image the goddess is immersed in river. In Orissa this day at around mid-day all types vehicles such as cars, buses, trucks, bicycles and bullock-carts are worshipped by invoking the presence of Devi Durga into them. In the evening, women perform a special puja called Somanath Brata. It is a form of worshipping lord Shiva. A treatise narrating the tale is Soma Nath is read out. (Somanath Brata Katha in Oriya may be downloaded by clicking on the link available at the bottom of this page). The offerings before the god include Manda Pitha ( a delicacy made of wheat flour with stuffing of scrubbed coconut, sugar and spices), ten types of fruits and ten types of flowers. After completion of the Puja in the evening women break their day-long fast.

Kumara Purnima: It is particularly a festival of kumaris . However it has now evolved into being a festival of kumars as well. The young ones enjoy this festival wearing new dresses. In the evening they worship the full moon in the sky. In the southern parts of Orissa the young and old alike celebrate this festival. Playing of some indoor game on this day is considered mandatory. It is said that one who does not play this day would be born as a toad in the next birth.

Dipavali: Also known in the northern states of India as Diwali, this festival is mainly celebrated as a remembrance of pitru Purusha, or ancestors. Lighted sticks or diyas are shown towards the sky in the evening seeking the blessings of ancesters and praying for their well-being. Bursting of fire-crackers and decorating houses with candles and diyas this day is not a custom original to Orissa. How ever this ritual has now been widely adapted from the north Indian states.

Panchuka: It is a practice among pious Oriyas to give up non-vegetarian food such as fish, meat and egg during the entire month of Kartik. How ever those who are not in a position to abstain from non-vegetarian foods during the entire month, have the option to give it up for five days beginning from Panchuka. There is a popular proverb in Oriya which says that even the fish-hunting bird of crane does not touch fish during these five days.
Kartik Purnima: It is an occasion to commemorate the glorious prosperity of Orissa in the olden days when the sadhabas (maritime traders) practised maritime trade in far off countries. They were traditionally sailing off into the sea every year on the day of Kartik Purnima while their spouses used to see them off by conducting aarti. As a token remembrance of the past glory, this day Oriya women sail off small toy-like boats in the rivers and perform puja early in the morning.

Prathamastami: It is an occasion to perform puja for the well-being of the first child in the family. A delicacy called Haladi Patra Enduri Pitha (idlis filled with sweet stuffing and wrapped in green leaves of turmeric plant before being steamed) is the specialty of the day.

Manabasa Gurubar: On every Thursdayin the Oriya month of Margasir goddess Lakshmi is worshiped with utmost devotion by Oriya women. They wake up very early in the morning and clean the house with broom-sticks, for it is believed that goddess Lakshmi would never visit the house if the house remains dirty and untidy. The entrance as well as the door step of the house is decorated with artistic Orissan alpana (called chita or jhoti). A pot made of bamboo canes used in the olden days for measuring paddy (known as mana) is filled upto the brink with freshly harvested paddy. It is believed that goddess Lakshmi visits every house-hold during the puja. It is a custom to recite the Lakshmi Purana, written by ancient poet Balaram Das, while performing the puja. (You may download the Lakshmi Purana in Oriya and also an English translation of it by clicking on the links available at the bottom of this page.)

Dhanu Sankranti: This festival is celebrated by preparing a special delicacy made of sweetened riceflakes called Dhanu Muan which is offered to Lord Jagannath in puja. A grand street play is held on this day in the Bargarh town of Orissa enacting the various episodes of Lord Krishna’s life. The entire township stretching over five kilometers serves as an open-air theatre and a large number of people participate in it with pomp and splendour.