Nuakhai 2018: The rice tale behind the harvest festival in Odisha
Rice and rice harvesting have always had a special place in the hearts of the Indian subcontinent. For centuries, rice have been a stable food and different cultures venerate this ‘life-giving food’ with different festivities. From the East Nuakhai festival to the Northeast, Bihu and Lui Ngai Ni festival of Assam and Manipur, rice festival is celebrated with pomp and vigour.
When is Nuakhai Festival celebrated
On September 14 every year, Odia people, especially in the Western parts of Odisha celebrate the festival by welcoming the harvest of new paddy. Farmers take to worshipping in the paddy fields while the pundits go about preparing the temples for rituals.
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The celebration of Nuakhai festival occurs right after the holy festival of Ganesh Chaturthi. As it is with Ganesh Chaturthi and its colourful celebration, the people of Odisha also celebrate Nuakhai with religious fervour, full gusto and spirit.
How is Nuakhai festival celebrated
The festival of Nuakhai begins by offering 'Nabanna', the newly harvested paddy, to goddess Samaleswari Devi in Sambalpur. Just as the Christians offer their first-food on Thanks Giving day, the first rice was offered to the goddess, Maa Samalai by the pundits.
This ceremony of rice offering is witnessed by a large number of devotees who throng the Samaleswari temple to witness the traditional ceremony decked in new attires and seek the blessings of the goddess.
Cultural programmes are also organised in different areas. Sambalpuri song Rangabati are performed in an immersed ocean of powerful folk music symbolising harmony and brotherhood.
Clad in colourful traditional attire, with a yellow flower tucked in the hair, team of dancers gracefully dance to the rhythmic beats of traditional instruments of dhol, nisan, tasa, jhanch and muhuri celebrating the harvest festival of Nuakhai.
Apart from the Samaleswari temple in Sambalpur, the ritual is also performed before Patneswari in Bolangir, Sureswari in Sonepur, Sekharbasisni in Sunderagrh and Nrusinghanath of Paikmal, Ghateswari of Chipilima, Bhattarika of Brajarajnagar and all Gramdevi shrines of villages across the state.
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Twitterati shower Happy Nuakhai wishes
Twitter was heavily loaded on September 14 with tweets from political leaders. To pay respect to the intrinsic culture of Odia and parts of Chhattisgarh region, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu, Odisha Governor Ganeshi Lal, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik took to Twitter, wishing them on their auspicious occasion of 'Nuakhai'.
"The festival reminds us of the important role of agriculture in our lives from time immemorial. Let us salute farmers of the country on this auspicious day and take a pledge to improve their lot," Patnaik tweeted.
"May this festival bring cheer, joy, prosperity and happiness to all! #NuakhaiJuhar ... My greetings to the people in Odisha and Jharkhand on the auspicious occasion of Nuakhai, the harvest festival," Naidu wrote.
To extend a sense of belonging to the Odia people, the chief minister extended wishes to the people by tweeting in Sambalpuri.
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"Heartiest greetings on Nuakhai. May the new harvest bring happiness & prosperity for all," Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram tweeted.
Former Kendrapara MP Baijayant Panda in a Twitter message also greeted the people and said "Nuakhai is a festival of new cultivation, new hopes and aspirations for the people in Odisha".
Globally acclaimed sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik also extended goodwill by building a sand sculpture on the Puri beach.