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Mrunal Manmay Dash

While Melas and Jatras are eternally embedded into every Odia’s life, there is a unique Mela held at Balighat in Balasore on the banks of river Budhabalanga every Kartik Purnima which attracts beggars from across the State and beyond.

Known as ‘Bhikshuk Mela’ in local parlance, thousands of beggars from the State and outside including West Bengal and Jharkhand throng Balighat to participate in the event.

Following the ‘Boita Bandana Utsav’ and darshan of the Lord on Kartik Purnima, people start donating the queued up beggars to avail good fortune. 

It is said, beggars cannot be choosers. But come Kartik Purnima, these beggars who line up up for alms on the banks of Budhabalanga, have so much to get that they are almost spoilt for choices.

A beggar from West Bengal said, “I got everything--from food to rice, even clothes. People here are very generous. I will take the donations home.”  

For over a thousand beggars queued up for almost a kilometre, there are thrice the number of donors as well. From rice to clothes, from food to cash, there are so many donors that no beggar ever goes empty-handed from this mela. Similarly, there is a belief that, by donating to beggars here during the Holy Kartik Purnima, one earns virtues for many years to come.

Speaking about the virtues, a resident of Balasore, Khageswar Das said, “We believe that by donating today the souls of our ancestors attain Moksha. Besides, there is always a feel good factor which promts me to donate.”

Similarly, another local resident, Kakali Patra said, “I love to donate to the poor. From rice to food, I donate whatever I get hold of. I find peace after donating.”

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