The holy month of Kartika is culturally significant to the Odia community. Many traditional festivals and rituals like “Habisha”, “Baluka Puja”, “Panchuka”, “Kartika Purnima”, and “Boita Bandana” are observed in this month. This religious significance of this month is immense because it is believed to be a month which is favorite both by Lord Shiva & Lord Vishnu. It is a month which is believed to be a period of self cleansing , getting rid of all toxicities and all negativities . Some saying goes that these rituals pave the path for salvation .
The married women of the family worship the holy Tulsi plant for the wellbeing of their spouses along with betterment of their entire household. In the entire month there is no consumption of Non-Veg food in almost all house holds and focus is given on having Satwik Bhojan. The widows throng the holy land of Puri and observe austerity through out the month when they take up the “Kartika Brata”. The state administration makes special arrangements to manage such large number of pilgrims. There is the sound of blowing of conch-Shells and the “hulahulis” (a special sound made with the mouth during auspicious occasions by women) every day in the early morning. There is a saying in the local language that even the the cranes observe this month and give up on eating fish.
Those who observe the fast, consume food called “Habisha” ( which is a special food and there is certain vegetables that are prohibited from usage) and that too just once in a day. They can have the Mahaprasad from the Lord Jagannatha Temple as well. The widows are referred to as “Habisialis”.
It is popularly believed that the chastity and purity of Vrundavati (Tulsi Plant) sustained the life of her husband, who didn’t follow any dharma. Thus by worshipping Vґundavati, women believe that they can earn the same merit.
The last five days are called “Panchuka ” which hold special significance. Early in the morning , the place near the Tulsi plant called “Choura”, is decorated with Muruja (drawings with colourful powder similar to Rangolis). Non- Veg Food is absolutely forbidden and there is a pious atmosphere through out .
Lord Jagannatha along with His siblings (sister Devi Subhadra & elder brother Lord Balabhadra) takes up several Avatars during this time. The Lord takes up the special avatar every day. The last day is very crucial when the Lord gives Darshan to His devotees in the “Rajarajeswar Avatar.
Notably , Year 2020 holds significance as this time “Panchuka” will be observed for six days and not five Days as after a huge gap of 25 years , Lord Jagannatha took up the rare ‘Nagarjuna Besha’. It was observed yesterday i.e on 27. 11. 2020. Due to the Pandemic situation, the devotees have been barred to visit temples .
The most auspicious Day of the Month is the Full Moon Day which is called as “Kartika Purnima”. This day is the day when “Sadhabas” or merchants of Odisha used to sail to far off lands ( mostly South Asian Nations ) with goods to do business. Till this day and age, Odias perform the ritual of “Boita Bandana” to celebrate the glorious past of Odisha or Kalinga as it used to be known in the past.
“aa kaa maa boi – paana gua thoi – paana gua tora – maasaka dharama mora”. ( A folk song sung while the Odias go for sailing small hand made boats in near by water bodies on Kartika Purnima).
In the early morning , on this special day Odias flock the waterbodies and sail hand made boats prepared from Banana trunk or thermocoal pieces. The scene looks magical and the picturesque view of such boats with little lights sailing in the water body at the break of the dawn just adds to the magical charisma of this Holy Month!
The glory of Odisha’s (erstwhile Kalinga’s) maritime heritage is commemorated by the “Boita Bandana” ritual on Kartika Purnima. “Boita Bandana” literally means sanctifying of boats. The brave merchants of earstwhile Odisha called “Sadhabas” used to sail and establish trade relations with distant land of Bali and other South East Asia nations.
Before the merchants would embark on the long and arduous journeys, the womenfolk would gather and sanctify the sailing vessel with betel leaves and areca nuts singing “aa kaa boi ma – paana gua thoi – paana gua tora – maasaka dharama mora”. The women pray for the safe return of their beloved spouses braving all the turmoil of long sea journey.
After the ritual, firecrackers would be lit to ward off any evil forces that may hinder the journey. The pre-dawn moments of Kartika Purnima were specially favored for setting off as the sea of Kartika was calmer.
The remarkable spirit of enterprise and adventure of the ancient Kalingans finds proof in Roman and Kushana coins as also in references in literary sources. Odia tradition has many quaint rituals to commemorate Odisha’s glorious trading past.
“Bali Jatra” is a mini traditional trade-fair which symbolizes the trade with Bali, Every year it is celebrated in the culture -rich town of Cuttack ( Judicial Capital of the State) which is actually situated at the apex of the delta of River Mahanadi. This fair commemorates and honours the brave merchants of Kalinga that one day had made Odisha the richest and the most advanced trading state once in the past. Odisha the land where even “Chanda” Ashoka became “Dharma” Ashoka ( after the famous Kalinga War )and became propagator of peace through spread of Buddhism is the land of Peace, Dharma and immense spiritual significance with intricate cultural heritage . It is another valuable petal in the flower of Incredible India ( Atulya Bharat)!