SAMBALPUR: Nuakhai, the agrarian mass festival, was celebrated across Western Odisha with religious fervour on Tuesday. The Nabanna (newly harvested rice) was offered to Goddess Samaleswari as per the stipulated ‘lagna’ (auspicious moment) between 9.05 am and 9.19 am. The deity was adorned with new saree and ornaments on the occasion.
During this period, families offer the Nabanna to their respective Istadevata (presiding deity) and Goddess Laxmi (Goddess of Wealth) as a mark of gratitude for bumper harvest, good rain and favourable farming weather. The festival was dedicated to Goddess Samaleswari in Sambalpur while Patneswari in Balangir, Sureshwari in Subarnapur and Sekharbasini in Sundargarh were worshipped on the occasion. Being an agrarian festival, the eldest in the family of each household in rural pockets worship their paddy fields and cattle.
Womenfolk woke up early in the morning to perform Nuakhai rituals that began with decorating the house with ‘jhoti.’ The later half of the day was spent in the kitchen preparing special delicacies.
During the festival, various traditional dishes and pancakes were prepared, which include Mug Bara, Ras Bara, Mug Mada, Suji Mada, Chaul Mada, Kakra Pitha and Kheeri besides preparations from Saru Patra (leaves of taro plant), Makhan Sag (leaves of pumpkin creeper) and Kardi (bamboo shoots). Non-vegetarian preparations too made an entry into some households. While children in colourful attire enjoyed their holiday to the fullest, devotees across the region thronged Samaleswari Temple. Most households wore a festive colour buzzing with activities. The streets of Sambalpur, in contrast, were deserted. Later in the evening, ‘Nuakhia Bhetghat’ was organised by different socio-cultural organisations and greetings were exchanged among the denizens with traditional ‘Nuakhai Juhar’.