PURI: While Ram Navami was celebrated on Sunday with bhajan programmes, Rama Lila and other religious festivities, the spiritual fervour in Puri is unique.
The city has come alive with tales from the Ramayan being staged at various sahis or by-lanes in an ancient festival known as Sahi Jatra.
A 12th century tradition, Sahi Jatra begins on Ram Navami. It involves two phases - a martial arts show and depiction of an episode from the Ramayan.
Sources said the Choda Ganga kings had begun this tradition of common people practising martial arts to protect Jagannath temple from invaders.
The 15-day cultural festival sees participation from seven ancient sahis of the city. The artistes take part in the festivities that begin with the performance of the Yagna episode from the Ramayan in which King Dasaratha and his wives perform a religious ritual. This is called Markandesa Sahi. The birth of Rama is depicted in Kaliketi Sahi. With the subsequent episodes performed in other sahis, the festival ends with Lanka Podi in Dolamandap Sahi and setu or bridge building episode in Bali Sahi.
During the daily jatras that begin in the evening, the artistes who have been practising for months, perform martial dance steps typical to Puri’s ‘akhada’ tradition.
The artistes, however, lamented that in the absence of patronage, the Mahotsav has been losing its charm.