Pradeep Pattanayak

Odisha is a land of festivals. From the popular saying ‘Bara Masare Tera Parba’, it can well be understood why the state is called a land of festivals. 

Prathamastami is one of the important festivals in Odisha. This festival is observed on the eighth day of Krushna Paksha of Margashira month according to the Odia almanac. This year, this festival falls on December 5. 

Today, the festival is being observed with pomp and enthusiasm across the state. 

Prathamastami is a combination of two words- prathama, which means the first, and astami, which means the eighth day. On this day, the firstborn child of a family, who is called ‘Padhuan’, is worshipped. Prayer is offered for his/her long life and prosperity.

As per the tradition, the maternal uncles gift the firstborns new clothes and sweets. On this day, the firstborns are made to wear new clothes and offered varieties of pancakes and sweets, ‘enduri pitha’, being the most preferred one among others. 

In rural areas, Prathamastami is still celebrated the way it used to be celebrated years ago. From early in the morning, the village air is filled with the aroma of different pancakes and sweets, the aroma of turmeric leaf being the most prevailing one. This leaf is used to prepare ‘enduri pitha’. 

To prepare this traditional rice cake, a thick batter of rice and urad dal is prepared. A required amount of the batter is put on a piece of turmeric leaf with a stuffing prepared from jiggery, grated coconut, cottage cheese and green cardamom powder. Then the leaf is folded and put into a steamer. After some time, the cake is ready to serve. 

It is believed that the medicinal properties of turmeric leaf are baked into the cake. And no oil is used to prepare the cake. So, health experts advise to have it. 

Prathamastami is also celebrated in Srimandir, Puri. Madhabananda Jew, the presiding deity of Madhabananda Jew temple at Niali in Cuttack, is the maternal uncle of Lord Jagannath.

As per tradition, new clothes (Khandua), sweets, and other ritual materials arrived from the Madhabananda Jew temple on Prathamastami day. ‘Enduri pith’ is offered to lord Jagannath and his siblings for breakfast. 

Prathamastami is also one of the favorite festivals of Lord Shiva. On this day, Lord Chandrasekhar, the representative idol of Lord Lingaraj in Bhubaneswar, is taken out of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple in a well-decorated palanquin.

On the way to Kapalimatha, his maternal uncle’s house, Lord Lingaraj visits Papanasini tank. Lord Lingaraj’s maternal uncle and aunt at Kapalimatha are Lord Baruneswar and Goddess Banadevi who welcome Lord Lingaraj.   

According to a well-established folklore, Lord Krishna and Lord Balaram, both wearing new clothes, visited their maternal uncle King Kansa on this day. There, they were accorded a grand welcome. 

For farmers, the day also holds significance. On this day, they worship new crops and Goddess Laxmi for blessing them with a bumper harvest. On this day, the farmers feel grateful for their firstborns as they assist them in agricultural activities.