Mrunal Manmay Dash

Dhenkanal: The age-old annual bullock festival at Bhuban block in Dhenkanal district that marks the end of Dussehra was celebrated this year in a rather subdued manner because of the Covid-induced restrictions.

The festival that usually sees participation of more than 50 bullocks in the event, was organised in a controlled situation with only two bullocks just to keep the tradition going. The pair of bullocks this year was decorated with colourful quills, beads and ornaments.

Earlier, around 50 oxen used to take rounds across the village and lead the idol immersion procession of Maa Durga. On the day of Vijaya Dasami, the Thoria Samaj (salt merchants) who first started the festival, brings the bullocks together to ‘Maa Banijari’ shrine, the presiding deity of the Thorias. Later, the animals are taken to pandals and paraded around the pandal to the rhythm of drums.

People from nearby villages and elsewhere in the State visit Bhuban to witness the mass event, but due to the Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the Dhenkanal district administration, the festival was celebrated without much pomp and grandeur this year.

Lalit Nayak, a local resident said, “We have deployed only two bullocks this year only for the sake of upholding the tradition. We hope Coronavirus subsides next year, so that we can celebrate it with full vigour.”

Brahmananda Sahu, a member of the local Thoria Society said, “We are saddened that we had to limit the celebration this year. Keeping all the COVID guidelines in view, we have brought only two bullocks.”

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.

(Edited By Devbrat Patnaik)

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