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7 Famous Festivals of Odisha that Exudes Warmth and Diversity

There are plenty of major festivals that are celebrated with great zeal in every part of India and there are some festivals that are regional being peculiar to each state. Likewise, there are some famous festivals of Odisha that depicts the regional ethnicity and also add the much-needed zing to the mundane. 

And with this blog, Adotrip will take you a step forward to the land of Temples where you can savor the customs and traditions that bind distinct communities in a cultural cocoon.

7 Famous Festivals of Odisha

Enjoy the idiosyncrasies of the local culture of the state and immerse yourself in elation at the land where every single festival is celebrated with warmth and exuberance. These vibrant festivals of Odisha bring with them reasons to rejoice and stay knitted. Scroll down to know the significance and mythological fables attached to these festivals and events of India:

1. Ratha Yatra

Jagannath Ratha Yatra is the famous festival of Odisha. It is the most awaited festival in India due to its historical and religious significance. Also being mentioned in the Puranas, the nine-day festival commemorates Lord Jagannath’s annual visit to his birthplace along with his elder brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. 18 days before the Ratha Yatra, a ritual of Snana Purnima marks the beginning of the festival. On this day the three deities are given a ceremonial bath with 108 pitchers of water in an open platform known as Snana Bedi. Thereafter they retire for 15 days and after the isolation, the Deities are taken out of their temples and placed on the temple-like chariots that are as huge as 45 feet in a colorful procession to meet their devotees. 

From here the Rath Yatra begins and the devotees pull the chariots to Gundicha Temple where the deities reside for nine days before carrying them back to Puri in a similar procession called the Bahuda Yatra. On the way back, the deities take a halt at their aunt's abode, Mausi Maa Temple, and are served with Poda Pitha. The arrival of Deities back to their sanctum sanctorum marks the end of the Rath yatra. The grand festival of chariots is attended by a massive number of devotees from all over the world annually. They flock to get a glimpse of the deities, even to touch the chariot, which is considered to be very auspicious. 

2. Kalinga Mahotsav

A three-day festival, Kalinga Mahotsav is also known as the festival of Martial dance. It is the brainchild of Italian Odissi dancer Ileana Citaristi who is now settled in Bhubaneswar. Since 2003, the festival is celebrated annually in the month of January-February to pay tribute to the Kalinga war. It is organized at the footstep of the Dhauli stupa, the land where the great emperor Ashoka fought the last battle of his life. The battle of Kalinga enlightened him with the futility of bloodshed for mere accumulation of wealth and with that, he surrendered his sword to embrace Buddhism. 

The extravaganza displays the ancient tradition of the fighting system, martial art through dance and music. Artists from different parts of the country gather to display live performances of the distinct art forms of India such as Chhau and Paika from Odisha, Kalaripayattu from Kerala, Rajbanshi from West Bengal, Mallakhamb Dance from Puri, and Thang Ta from Manipur. The incitement behind this unique festival is to fuse and integrate the verve of both martial traditions with the art of dance to spread the message of peace and harmony.

3. Konark Dance Festival

Held at the epodic land of Konark in an open to sky auditorium overlooking the eulogizing Sun temple, Konark Dance Festival is the most opulent dance festival not only in Odisha but in India. The hair raising rhythm of the ancient classical drums -mridangam and mandala chiming in with manjira, flute, and mellifluous sound of the ghungroos reverberates the ambiance and transcends the spectators into a different world. The artists of the avant-garde from all over the country participate in the cultural extravaganza to display and promote the traditional Indian heritage of dance through a weeklong celebration. 

Handicrafts and sculptures are displayed in an incredible crafts mela with stalls of delectable regional cuisines that bring forth the cultural richness of the country that swears by its diversity. The joint venture of Odisha Tourism and Odissi Research Centre, Konark Dance Festival speaks volumes about the resplendent and out worldly experiences of the tourists who have witnessed the enriching dance culture of our country. 

4. Chhau Festival

The tradition of the Chhau Festival was initiated in the late 19th century by Maharaja Krushna Chandra Bhanj Deo of Mayurbhanj. As he was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva, he started the tradition of Chhau to pay tribute to the lord of Death. This unique festival is celebrated every year before the Maha Vishuba Sankranti Day which generally falls on the 13th or 14th of April. The festival is celebrated with great fervor in the district of Baripada and Koraput in Odisha. 

It is basically a tribal festival where tribal communities as Bhumij, Mahato, Munda, Ho, Santhal, Oraon, and Dom display the vibrant tribal culture through the Chhau dance form. Highly evolved techniques of martial arts fused in dance form are displayed on the themes of Mahabharata, Ramayana, and a few episodes of Indian Puranas. Performed under the night sky that is lit up with the fire poles called Mashaal, the three days long festival is conviviality that interpolates merrymaking through singing, dancing, hunting, enacting, and feasting.

5. Magha Saptami

The second biggest festival in Odisha, next to the Rath yatra, Magha Saptami is a reverence for Sun God. Every year it is celebrated on the seventh day of the new moon in the month of Magha at the marvelous Konark Sun Temple. There is a legend associated with this special day that Shamba who was the son of Lord Krishna was cured of leprosy after taking a holy dip at the Chandrabhaga on the seventh day of the month of Magha. 

This prompted the tradition of the holy dip and thousands of devotees congregate for ablution in the sacred Chandrabhaga river with a firm faith that this ritual would not only eradicate evil from their life but also make their body free of physical ailments. A massive fair is held at the Khandagiri caves for an epoch of seven days that take up from Magha Saptami.

6. Puri Beach Festival

Puri Beach Festival is the first beach festival in India that is held every year in the month of November. The five-day-long cultural extravaganza displays myriad art forms and offers a splendid experience of cultural events. These events bring together art, craft, culture, sports, gastronomy, and everything that displays the cultural heritage of not just Odisha but other states as well. 

Besides being famous for scintillating sand art and vivid regatta (boat or yacht races), the festival is also famous for promoting traditional beach sports like beach volleyball, Kabadi, Malkhamb (pole gymnastics). This distinctive festival has everything for everyone and to add, the view of Puri Beach is absolutely spellbinding. 

7. Sitalsasthi

Some unique festivals have fables attached to them and Sitalsasthi is one such festival that narrates a beautiful piece of mythology. The five days festival has been mentioned in Shiva Purana and is therefore significant. During these five days of Sitalsasthi, Utkal Brahmins eulogize the marriage ceremony of the revered Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Dated back when a demon named Tarakasur was creating trouble and devastation in the universe, Devatas approached Lord Vishnu to find a solution. Tarakasura was bestowed with a boon of only being killed by the son of Shiva. As Shiva lost his first wife, grief-stricken, he went into a trance. 

With only hope in Shakti, Lord Vishnu suggested to all Devatas to request the Goddess to incarnate as Parvati and she took birth as the daughter of Himalaya and grew up to be an epitome of beauty and grace. But before marrying Parvati, Shiva incarnated as a short person to test her love for him. Proposed by many suitors, Parvati, however, advocated her love for only Shiva. Apparently, the divine couple got married and every year a marriage ceremony is celebrated with Nagar Parikrama known as Sitalsasthi Yatra. Apart from solemnizing the divine wedding, the carnival is adorned with the grandeur of folk music, folk dance, feast, and fiesta.

While the festival calendar of Odisha is replete, there are usual festivals like Holi, Diwali, Id. Durga Puja, Makar Sankranti, and many more are celebrated with great enthusiasm. Also keeping notch above in exquisiteness, regional festivals of this culturally rich state add a certain charm that cannot be found elsewhere. Odish...aah! See to Believe!

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--- Published By  Shradha Mehra