Pradeep Pattanayak

A sea of crowd thronged Chandrabhaga beach near Konark in Puri on Friday to take a holy dip at Chandrabhaga Tirtha near the sea on the auspicious occasion of Magha Saptami. 

Magha Saptami, also known as Ratha Saptami, is one of the major Hindu festivals that falls on the seventh day in the Shukla Paksha or waxing period of the Hindu month of Magha (January-February). The festival is dedicated to Lord Sun. 

On this day, a grand congregation of pilgrims is witnessed at Chandrabhaga in Konark and the festival is known as Chandrabhaga Mela. 

As per the Padma Purana, Konark is known as Arka Kshetra. Konark is the combination of two words. They are- Kona and Arka. Kona means corner and Arka means Sun. As this part is known as the corner of the Sun, a magnificent Sun temple is built here. There used to be a river called Chandrabhaga at a distance of 2 kilometres from the 13th-century Sun temple. 

This is the place where Samba, the son of Lord Krishna, worshipped the Sun God for twelve years and took a bath in Chandrabhaga Tirtha and got rid of leprosy. 

Since then, it is believed that a dip in the river, which is now reduced to a pond, on this auspicious occasion cures all illness. And the spiritual benefit earned is compared to that earned after a dip in the holy Ganga. After the bath, the devotees go to the Sun Temple to worship lord Sun. 

As a mela is incomplete without stalls and temporary kiosks selling mouth-watering foods and home need articles, such stalls also come up in Chandrabhaga Mela, giving pilgrims and tourists an opportunity to soak in festivity. The opera shows are also a major attraction of this fair. 

On this occasion, a fair also kick starts at the foot of Khandagiri and Udayagiri hills in Bhubaneswar, known as Khandagiri Mela. 

On this day, it is witnessed that many saints coming from different parts of the country take holy dips at Chandrabhaga tirtha and proceed to Khandagiri. At the mela, also known as Ardha Kumbha Mela, the saints and monks stay at the mela site for nine days till Agira Purnima. 

During the mela, the saints perform yagyans from morning to noon and immerse in bhajans and kirtans in the evenings. 

The mela held around the twin hills of Khandagiri and Udayagiri attracts a large number of visitors from Bhubaneswar and nearby areas. Some tourists from out of the state also come to this fair. People eagerly wait for this fair for a year. While a smorgasbord of home needs articles are sold here at the temporary kiosks, opera shows are the main attraction of the fair. More than 10 opera parties stage their shows till the last day of the fair.