Western Odisha gears up for Nuakhai

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Sambalpur: Despite deficit rainfall this season, people across Western Odisha are gearing up to celebrate the festival Nuakhai scheduled to be held on Tuesday.

During the agrarian annual festival, people worship their presiding deities and seek blessings for good rain, bumper crop and a favourable weather for farming. The festival marks the eating of newly harvested rice.

On this day, people offer ‘Nabanna’ (new rice) out of newly harvested paddy crop to the deity amidst beating drums, cymbals and sounds of conch shells. Goddess Samaleswari in Sambalpur, Patneswari in Bolangir, Sureshwari in Sonepur, Sekharbasini in Sundargarh and Manikeswari in Kalahandi are worshipped as presiding deities.

“At first the bhog is offered to the main deity and then to other deities in and around the temple. People in large numbers queue up to get the bhog,” Ambika Prasad Ray, chief priest of Samaleswari temple said.

After eating ‘Navanna’ bhog (offerings), people seek blessings of the deities and then do so from elders in the family and locality which is called ‘Nuakhai Juhar’ in local parlance, a significant part of the festival. People also exchange greetings which is called ‘Nuakhai Bhetghat’.

Various delicacies are prepared from the new rice and exchanged with relatives and friends.

There are reasons for celebrating the festival in the Odia month of ‘Bhadraba’ even though the paddy crop is not ready for harvesting. The sole idea is to offer the grain of short-duration paddy to presiding deity even before any bird or animal pecks at it.

Markets in urban centres including Sambalpur city are buzzing with activities with people both from urban and rural areas thronging to make purchases for the festival.

‘New’ being the theme of this festival, people use everything new on the occasion including new clothes, pot, basket, leaves and tray for which their preparation starts at least a month preceding the festivities.

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