Bolangir, August 23 (LocalWire): Nuakhai, the harvest festival is observed in Western Odisha on the next day of Ganesh Chaturthi every year.
An annual agrarian festival, Nuakhai strengthens brotherhood and unity, while signifying the gratitude of the people towards Mother Earth and their forefathers for the harvest that comes every year.
1) The cultivation of paddy begins from Akshay Tritiya in May, and Nuakhai takes place the day after Ganesh Chaturthi in the month of Bhadrab.
2) Nuakhai is a festival which its roots in gratitude. The first newly sprouted paddy grains are offered to the local deity and Mother Earth, thanking them for their blessings, as without these, there would be no grain and no prosperity.
The people, especially the farmers, pray for a good harvest, and prosperity for all.
3) The Sariaan variety of paddy, which is ready to be harvested by Nabarnna, is offered to the deity and then consumed by the people.
4) In western Odisha, Nuakhai is celebrated in a huge way, as one day is decided and the time for the “Lagna” is fixed by pandits.
5) In Sambalpur, the first cooked grains of paddy are offered to the Goddess Samleshwari, while in Bolangir, it is offered to the Godesses Patneshwari and Samleshwari.
In Sonepur, it is offered to Goddess Sureshwari.
6) People in West Odisha begin preparations 15 days in advance.
Nuakhai is understood to have nine colours, hence, nine sets of rituals are followed as a prelude to the actual day of celebration of Nuakhai.
7) The Beheren is the announcement of a meeting to set the date for the celebration.
The “lagna dekha” is the setting of the exact time for partaking of new rice. “Daka haka” is the ritual in which people are invited for partaking the new harvest.
8) “Sapha Sutura and lipa puchha” is the cleaning of the house performed before the festival, while “ghina bika” and “nua dhana khuja” include purchasing of things required for the festival and looking for the new grain in the fields.
9) Bali paka is the final resolve for Nuakhai in which the prasad is offered to the deity, while Nuakhai is the partaking of the new crop as prasad, followed by dancing and singing.
10) Juhar Bheta is the final ritual of Nuakhai in which elders are respected by youngsters, who offer them Namaskar and get blessings in return.
In rural areas, people send a “bhar” containing rice, vegetables, pulses and other items to their relatives and friends. This ritual is called Nuakhai Bhar.
The Juhar Bheta is a unique tradition of Nuakhai, with its roots in brotherhood. It binds/unites the people in a unique way.
Many local sports are played with enthusiasm by the people on this occasion.
This year, due to the spectre of COVID-19, the celebrations were rather muted.
People observed Nuakhai at their home and there was no mass celebration on Nuakhai.