By Dillip Kumar Pradhan
Bhuban (Dhenkanal): Neither the gigantic illuminating puja pandals, colourful fancy lights, Ravan Podi programme, Meena Bazar nor the swings, but a unique festival that accompany the Dussehra in Bhuban of Dhenkanal district, draws thousands of people.
Christened the Bullock Festival, the largest village of Asia draws huge visitors from neighbouring district and States also. The festival attracts lakhs of visitors who participate in the grand procession of bullocks decorated with ornaments, beads, bells and colourful velvet saddles on Dussehra and the immersion day. From times immemorial, the tradition of bullocks taking part in the Dussehra immersion festival has been continuing.
“There was a day when hundreds of bullocks used to participate in grand event during immersion. With the rise of tractors, trucks and other agriculture equipment, the number of oxen has fallen drastically which has subsequently affected the age-old festival of the largest village”, Bhuban Peace Committee president Basudev Behera said.
“We have approached the district administration and civic bodies many times to encourage the organisers for strengthening the oldest tradition. But, our appeal has fell on the deaf ears of the administration and urban bodies”, Behera rued.
He lamented the Energy department officials for failing to provide uninterrupted power service during this year’s function which raised many eyebrows in the locality.
Even as the number of visitors continues to rise by the day and bullock owners of the neighbouring blocks-Gondia and Sukinda-, are showing interest to participate, the district administration, State culture and tourism department continue to neglect the oldest cultural extravaganza, said member of the peace committee Matru Prasad Mishra, who is also a culture expert and secretary of Puri Govardhan Peeth.
“It will not be wrong to say that the administration is almost reluctant to keep the age-old tradition alive. We have taken the matter to the notice of Information and Public Relation department, Culture department and district administration many times requesting them to do the needful for the upliftment of the fest. However, we have been only receiving sweet assurances from them,” Mishra added.
The sub-collector (Kamakhya Nagar), some senior police officials meet the bullock owners, puja committee members and organisers before the festival as a mark of formalities every year. But, it is the local residents, who have a great love for their tradition have successfully taken the fest to such a height making it as a mass festival. This year, the event had drawn around 1.5 lakh revellers from across the State. After all, the credits go to only goddess Durga, Mishra said.
As many as 37 bullocks took part in the two-day fete this year that starts on the day of Vijaya Dasami and ended with the immersion of idols of Durga, Mishra added.
The old tradition binds the villagers together with families and their relatives chipping in to make it a grand affair. The festival promotes love for animals and respect for tradition.
Preparation of bullock owners:
The selected bullocks are imparted training before the grand fete. “The rehearsal generally starts a month before the festival to acquaint the bullocks with loud music, crowd and light. We are feeling proud that the festival has become popular by the day,” Satya Sahu, a bullock owner said.
On the day of Vijaya Dasami, the Thoria Samaj (salt merchants), who first started the festival, bring the bullocks together to the temple of ‘Maa Banijari’, the presiding deity of the Thorias. Later, the animals are taken to pandals, who paraded to the rhythm of drums.
Bhuban village is known for its best brass work. The ‘thorias, Kansaris and Kachera communities usually use the bullocks as means of transportation of their commodities for business purpose. Before commencing their journey, they used to worship the oxen at the temple of Maa Banijari.
With the ravages of time and rise of vehicular transportation, the priority of the bullocks has decreased drastically. In order to commemorate this tradition, the thorias had introduced the festival first. Subsequently, people of other caste have also started taking part in the event.