Understanding The Rituals Of Gamha Purnima

By Srinibash Samal

Gamha Purnima or Rakhi Purnima is celebrated with much fervour across the state. The festival celebrates the bond of love between brothers and sisters. To mark the festival, brothers and sisters in every household of the state start preparations very early in the morning. While girls prepare the ‘puja thali’ filled with colourful ‘rakhis’ along with chandan-tilak, sindoor (vermilion), akshat (rice), lamps and sweets, boys are well prepared with gifts for their beloved sisters. After performing ‘aarti’ for the wellbeing of their brothers, girls put tilak on their forehead and tie rakhi threads on their wrists. The brothers in return offer gifts to their sisters as a token of love and vow to protect them.

It is not necessary that the rakhi should be given only to a blood brother; any male can be “adopted” as a brother by tying a rakhi, whether they are cousins or good friends and several socio-cultural organizations also observe it with an objective to nurture brotherhood.

Yes this ‘Raksha Bandhan’ tradition is not a part of our Odia Culture, but it has carved a special niche in our tradition. Still it has failed to find its favor in many rural pockets. In the recent years it has gained ground and popularity in urban areas of our state under the influence of movies and North-Indian culture.
Shravan purnima is also known as Jhulana Jatra. It starts from Shravan-sukla-ekadashi and comes to an end on the Gamha Purnami. The idols of both Radha-Krishna are placed on a swing on this festival. Probably it has been a regular custom in every Vaishnava temple and math dedicated to Krishna since the 15th century.

Rakhi purnima was celebrated on the holy occasion of Gamha purnima, which is the birthday of Lord Balabhadra or Balaram, with all the rituals at Lord Jagannath Temple in pilgrim town of Puri.

Although, lord Jagannath along with his siblings Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra is being worshipped as Daru-Brahma at Srimandir Puri, like normal human beings, he follows all the rules and observes festivals. And on this day, Devi Subhadra ties rakhi on the wrists of her brothers Lord Balabhadra and Lord Jagannath. Members of the Patara Bisoi servitors make four rakhis for the occasion. While, the rakhi for Lord Jagannath is painted red and yellow, Lord Balabhadra’s rakhi is of blue and violet hues.

On Gamha Purnima day, the birth ceremony of Lord Balabhadra is observed in Srimandir. All the six idols (Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra, Sudarshan, Bhudebi & Sridebi) on Ratnabedi are bejeweled with gold ornaments.
The Sudha Suar servitors prepare for puja with the help of Puja Panda, Pati Mohapatra and Mudirasta. The order of Lord Jagananth (Angyamala) is offered to Sridevi, Bhudevi both the Goddess and Madan Mohan the representative of Sri Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra, for the Jhulana rituals (the swing rituals). After that Sudarshan drops down from throne and boards the ‘chaudola’ bejeweled with golden garlands namely ‘Harida Mali.’
The deity proceeds to the pond called Markandeya Pond. Sudha Suara observe some rituals by making the idol of Sri Balabhadra with wet clay.

The Puja Panda by chanting mantra spews life into the idol. The idol is offered Bhoga there. Then the idol is immersed in the Pond. After immersion, Lord Sudarshan proceeds to other three Ashrams and returns to Srimandir late in the night.


Lord Balaram took birth on the Shravanā nakshatra’s ‘Gamha Purnami on Makara Lagna.’ And Langala is his weapon. So we can say He is the initial exponent of cultivation and the Lord of the farming community. So the farmer families, as per the tradition, also worship their wooden ploughs. The term ‘Gamha’ is probably derived from the word Go-mata. According to the Harivamsa, Balaram was born from a cow named Rohini. So He is closely associated with the cattle herds. That’s why on this day cattle are washed clean and worshipped with proper piety and purity and rakhis are tied to the horns and they are decorated with Mali or garlands. Various kinds of pancakes and sweets are made and served to the cattle.

In Odisha, especially in Paralakhemundi, Nayagarh, Brahmapur and other parts, the birthday of Lord Baladeva is celebrated through a popular game known as Gamha-Diyan (The Gamha Jump). Actually it is a very integral part of Martial tradition of our state. The Paikas regarded this day as the most auspicious for commencing the practices of new warfare.

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