Festivals are a part of our identity and we as a race take a lot of pride in celebrating our festivals and this is how we have been meticulously preserving our culture and our heritage. We Indians, have always taken pride in being recognized as the most tolerant and the most heterogenous mix of individuals who cherish the idea of co-existing despite the difference of caste , creed , language , dialect ,color etc. Though recently, there have been many instances, where this strong fabric of unity is being targeted at by various selfish interests of many groups. However, we have always been the resilient ones, and though there are many hiccups in the current situation , I as a proud Indian, do believe that my countrymen will grow beyond any such implanted bitterness and grow stronger bonds and celebrate their togetherness , their unity in their festivals, in their ceremonies and continue to be the most unique & progressive oriented country of the world.
Today, I will introduce Kumar Purnima which is a very important & unique festival of Odisha. Kumar Purnima is celebrated on the Full moon day of the month of Ashwina ( October- November). The significance of today is that , it is the birthday of Lord Kartika, the elder son of Lord Shiva. He is the God of war and is believed to be most handsome of all the devatas and possesses all vigor. Hence , it is a custom, that unmarried girls in the State worship Lord Kartik on this day and aspire to get a life partner as him , one who has all his might & power to protect her and be able to stand for what is right & defeat all the enemies. However, there is no idol of Kartik that gets worshipped, rather this day there is Puja of both the Sun & the Moon . The young girls get up before the Sun rise ,bathe and get dressed up in new attires and offer ‘anjuli’ to the rising Sun near Brundabati or the Tulsi or Basil plant, seven times with ‘lia’ or ‘khaii’ from the ‘kula’ or the winnowing fan and other items, including coconut, banana, apple, cucumber, betel nut, janhi or striped gourd, sugarcane and flowers. They offer puja to pay reverence to the Almighty.
With the approach of the twilight , again there is elaborate celebration where the full Moon is worshiped. This is called as “Chanda Puja”. The prasad which is called “Chanada Chakata” is offered near Brundabati or the Tulsi, aptly decorated with colourful flowers and ‘diya’ and ‘dhupa’ (incense stick), bringing an end to the rituals amid the sound of ‘huluhuli’ (ululation) and sankha (conch).The prasad is served in a shape of half moon and the girls have to hide themselves while eating them. The belief is that when you hide and eat the whole of the Prasad, the would be husband would offer all his love to his wife and will lead to a blissful married life. With the old folklore “Kuanra Punei Janha lo.. and Phula Baula Beni..” girls offer the prasad to the Moon and then later some part Prasad is thrown in a pond or water, and everyone consumes the rest.
Puchi khela is the signature game of Kumar Purnima. It is played in a squatting position where one’s weight is shifted and balanced from one leg to another rapidly. Games such as ‘Puchi’, ‘Bohu-Bohuka’, ‘Bisa-Amruta’, etc. are played and songs like ‘Phula Baula Beni’ are sung in the moonlight.Kumar Purnima also urges the young men to enjoy a day of fun-filled, exciting games. Whether it is a game of cards, “Bohuchori” devised along the lines of hide and seek, Kitikiti , or the passionate game of dice, all these boisterous games sprinkle merriment and a feeling of camarederie all around.
Kumarutsav is a festival of happiness & merry making . On this day, young men & women are given freedom to realise their innate beauty and celebrate youthfulness. This day marks the beginning of the Gaja Laxsmi Puja in the State . This also marks the beginning of the Kartika Masa or the most holy month of the Odiya Calender. I had also written a detailed post on the significance of this month which you can read here.
Below is a video showcasing a famous song with a modern touch that is sung on this festive occasion.