Thursday, September 26, 2013

Nuakhai - Greeting New Rice Paddy and Thanking Mother Earth

Nuakhai (Nua means new and Khai means food) is a festival of harvest which is celebrated after the day of Ganesh Chaturthi festival, on the Panchami Tithi (fifth day) of lunar fortnight of Bhadra month.

This harvest festival is celebrated by the people of Western Odisha in India particularly in the cultural area of Sambalpuri. Though it is absorbed in different parts of India, Sambalpuri stands atop because of its great splendor celebration with great enthusiasm. Grain meaning ‘Anna’ is regarded as Brahma by Hindus and since Goddess Laxmi is attributed to Lord Brahma, she is also worshipped on this celebration along with the local deities. 

On the day of this harvest festival, Mother Nature is worshipped for providing food and all those basics necessary for the endurance of livelihood of human beings. The offering for this is made to Goddess Shakti in Shakti Temple and is offered in leaf-cups made from Palasa, Sal, Tendu, or Kurei leaves. The foods that are prepared form the fresh harvest is offered to the local deities. After the worshipping and prayer to the goddess, all the members of the family consume the holy offering.

Mouth watering sweets along with culinary delights like Manda Pitha and Khiri Puri with fresh rice are prepared. Various events like traditional dances, musicals, and lots more are also organized on the same day. The festival time is set by divine astrologers making it even more important for the people of various places of Western Odisha including Bolangir, Phulbni, Sambalpur, and Sundargarh where the main celebration takes place. All the houses are neatly cleaned and festooned with decoration by house makers. Every old and young people wear new clothes.

For the past few decades, West Oriyas living in different parts of India including Delhi, Bangalore, Vishakhapatnam, Goa and Mumbai are celebrating it with great pomp and show marking their unification all across India.

History: According to researchers it was started in Vedic times when Rishis talked about five important activities in the yearly calendar, including pralambana yajna meaning cutting of the crops and ultimately offering to goddess. Though, the modern celebration can be traced back to 12th century AD, when the founder of the princely state of Patna presently under Balangir district in Western Odisha, Chauhan Raja Ramai Deo realized the crucial importance of agriculture in the economy as, the people spend their livelihood by food gathering and hunting in Patna. The credit for commencing this celebration can be given to him, because it was he who during state formation in Sambalpuri area started Nuakhai as a ritual to promote agriculture as a way of living life thus giving life to the new day celebration of Nuakhai. 

Main Attractions:

• Juhar Bhet is one of the nine colours of Nuakhai in which the elders are respected in an exceptional way.
• Merry making and meeting of relatives and friends.
• Eating of fresh and new rice.
• Unique and delicious Kheer of new rice.
• Cultural and Traditional musicals and dances. 

Truly, it is more than a festival; it is a unique way of thanking Mother Nature for providing foods.