Odisha, a religious land of incredible India, is famous for its cultural heritage, ancient traditions, history, and noteworthy temples. Being a cultural state, Odisha celebrates numerous fairs and festivals around the year. There is a saying in Odia that Bara masa re tera parba, which means Odisha celebrates a lot of festivals in a single year. Many people think that Odisha is only about Rath Yatra, but this state celebrates a lot more than just that. So, through this blog, let’s gain a better understanding and knowledge about the festivals of Odisha. Moreover, to help you know better, here is a list of the most popular festivals of Odisha.
Makar Mela or Makar Sankranti is a popular festival of Odisha. During this festival, people worship and offer food to the Lord Sun and seek blessings for a healthy and prosperous life. When the Sun enters the orbit of Capricorn, people celebrate this festival, and by this time, the harvest of new paddy and sugarcane crops are over. Various regions celebrate this festival in different ways. Makar chaula, made from rice, jaggery, coconut is the main attraction of this festival.
Odisha celebrates the popular Khandagiri Kumbh Mela in the month of January or February at the foothills of the twin caves-Udayagiri and Khandagiri. Every year, saints from different holy places of India like Banaras, Kashi, and Ayodhya come here to participate in this Kumbh Mela. During this festival, traders and craftsmen from different parts of the country gather at Bhubaneswar. If you want to see the Jatra (typical Odia theatre), which is the major attraction of Khandagiri Mela, then you must visit Odisha during this time. Moreover, artists from different parts of the state come here to perform Jatra throughout the night.
Magha Saptami at the Konark Temple is one of the most famous and the oldest festivals of Odisha. According to mythology, Lord Krishna cursed his son Samba with leprosy. So, after 12 years of asceticism to Lord Surya on the shores of Chandrabhaga, he was cured of the disease. So, every year a large number of devotees gather and take a dip in the Chandrabhaga and worship Lord Surya to get rid of all ailments. This festival also marks the beginning of the grand Khandagiri Mela.
Dola Purnima and Holi
Holi is the festival of colors, played almost every place in India. This day also celebrates the birth anniversary of Great Vaishnava Saint Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. This festival begins on Phagu Dasami, in which Lord Krishna travels to every household on a palanquin. This festival culminates on the day of Dola Purnima. On this day, Lord Jagannath adorns the ChacheriBesa, a red dress along with red flowers symbolizes that Lord is ready to celebrate the Holi festival. During these five days, devotees throw gulal on to Lord Jagannath. Holika Dahan (cremation of Holika) is the victory of Lord Vishnu over the demon Hiranyakashyap’s sister Holika and this is celebrated in the vicinity of Puri Jagannath Temple.
Shivaratri is one of the most important festivals for Hindus, and Odisha celebrates this with great jubilance. This festival falls in March/April, and during this festival, devotees observe fast and perform puja throughout the night. This festival is the birth anniversary of Lord Shiva. Lingaraj temple of Bhubaneswar, Lokanath temple of Puri, Kapilas temple of Dhenkanal, and Nrusinghnath temple of Balangir are some of the important temples of Odisha, where a large number of devotees congregate to celebrate Shivaratri. Moreover, the placing of the holy lamp at the peak of the Lingaraj temple is one of the highlights of Shivaratri in Odisha.
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Chhau festival is the tribal festival that represents the tribal life and traditional dances of Odisha. This festival lasts for 3 days, and mainly Bhuyan tribes of Odisha celebrate this one. It is a semi-classical dance with martial, tribal, and folk traditions. The artists wear a mask while dancing, and their colorful attires are so appealing and impressive. The dance enacts famous mythological stories such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Budhi Thakurani Jatra
Budhi Thakurani Jatra is one of the biggest festivals of Southern Odisha, especially in the Ganjam district. This auspicious festival falls in the Hindu month of Chaitra (March/April), which starts from Maha Shivaratri. Dera, a weaver community of Ganjam, mainly celebrates this festival. The head of the community, Desibehera, and his wife traditionally dress and go to Budhi Thakurani Temple to invite the Goddess to visit her parental home. Every member of the house comes out to pay their respect and devotion when every evening, the goddess comes to each house in the locality in a procession. One of the highlights of this Yatra is the Beshadharis, who dressed up like Lord Rama, Krishna, Hanuman, and other mythological characters with chariots and palanquins. This festival lasts for one month, accompanied by music and dance.
Taratarini temple of the Ganjam district observes Taratarini Mela in the Hindu month of Chaitra (March – April), and it is one of the biggest fairs of Odisha. People celebrate this festival on every Tuesday of Chaitra month, and the third Tuesday is a grand celebration. During this period, devotees from all over the state come here to offer their prayers and offerings to the Goddess.
Ashokastami is the chariot festival of Lord Lingaraj, which falls in the bright half of the Hindu month Chaitra. On this auspicious day, Sri Chandrashekhar, the representative deity of Lord Lingaraj, goes to Rameswar temple in a chariot and returns after a four-day stay with Mausi Maa. Thousands of devotees from different parts of the country gather at Lingaraj Temple of Bhubaneswar to witness this unique car festival. People also know this as Rukuna Rath Jatra.
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As per the Odia calendar, the New Year is celebrated as Pana Sankranti, which is also called Mahabisuva Sankranti. A mixture of water and mishri is hung over the tulsi plant to represent the Earth. The festival is very auspicious for farming and agricultural activities in Odisha. Devotees offer special offerings to Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, and Hanuman on this auspicious occasion. Moreover, people go to the Goddess Temple and pray for their health and prosperity. Bela Pana, a juice of bael is the special drink of this occasion.
Time: April 14th and 15th
It is another popular festival of Odisha, celebrated at Jagannath temple at Puri, which lasts for 42 days. People also know this festival as Gandhalepan Jatra. In this festival, the proteges of deities take a ritual boat ride after a refreshing bath in the sweet-scented sandalwood water at Narendra Pokhari. These traditional boats are called Chapa. The beautifully decorated boats with red and white flowers are the main attractions of Chandan Yatra, which resemble a swan floating in the water. Thousands of tourists and pilgrims from Odisha and also from different parts of the world gather at Puri to enjoy this festival.
Sital Sasthi is a unique Hindu festival which celebrates the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Sambalpur and Bhubaneswar are the two main places that celebrate this popular festival of Odisha. The festival falls on the sixth day of the bright fortnight in Jyestha, which corresponds to the months of May-June. This festival lasts for three days, and it is also called Sital Sasthi Jatra. In this festival, one family plays the role of Goddess Parvati’s family to propose marriage to Lord Shiva. As Lord Shiva is also known as Swayambhu, no one plays the role of his family.
A large number of Hijras and Eunuchs attend this festival, as another name of Lord Shiva is Ardhanarishwara. This festival signifies the end of the summer season and the incoming monsoon. If you want to see the grand wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, then you must visit Odisha during this time.
Savitri Amavasya or Savitri Brata is an important festival for married women of Odisha. On this auspicious day, they observe fast and pray for the long life and prosperity of their husbands. Women observe this festival on the Amavasya (last day of the dark fortnight) in the month of Jyestha. Moreover, this festival celebrates the eternal bond of wife and husband. On this day, married women listen to the story of Savitri and Satyaban. According to mythology, Savitri saved her husband Satyaban from Yam, the god of death.
Raja (pronounced as rawjaw) festival is one of the main festivals of Odisha, which is celebrated at the onset of the rainy season. People celebrate this festival to bring prosperity to agriculture and Raja also celebrates womanhood. This festival lasts for 3 days, the first day of which is Pahili Raja, the second is Raja, and the third is Basi Raja. This festival is dedicated to Basu Mata, the Goddess of Earth. It is a belief that during this period, the Goddess undergoes her menstrual cycle. So, the people of Odisha stop all the agricultural activities like ploughing, plucking, cutting trees to allow the Goddess to rest. Poda pitha is one of the main foods of this festival that people exchange among their relatives and friends, and the Raja Pan is another attraction of the Raja festival.
Swings are an integral part of this festival. There may be several types of swings, like Ram Doli, Chakri Doli, Pata Doli, Dandi Doli, etc. People also know Raja Sankranti as Mithuna Sankranti. In some places, it is celebrated for four days and called Basumati Puja.
Rath Jatra-The Biggest Festival of Odisha
Rath Jatra is the much-awaited festival for devotees of Odisha. It is the biggest and the most popular annual chariot festival of Lord Jagannath, celebrated in Odisha. This great Hindu festival falls on the second day of Shukla paksha Asadha month, usually in June or July. During this festival, Lord Jagannath and his siblings, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra make a journey to their aunt’s temple (Gundicha Temple), 2 km away from Jagannath temple. This festival lasts for 9 days. On the 9th day, 3 deities return to Jagannath temple, and this is called Bahuda Jatra. The next day of the Bahuda Yatra, the Sunabesha is celebrated, in which the 3 deities are adorned with gold ornaments.
Rath Jatra is a symbol of universal brotherhood because, during this period, Lord himself comes out to meet his devotees irrespective of caste, creed, and communities. Although Puri is famous for Rath Jatra, different regions of the state celebrate this festival with great jubilance and enthusiasm. Every year millions of people congregate from different parts of the country at Puri to enjoy Rath Jatra. The world-famous Rath Jatra attracts devotees not only from India but also from nook and corner of the world. If you are a devotee of Lord Jagannath and also want to see the natural sea of people, then you should see the Rath Jatra of Puri.
Gamha Purnima/Rakhi Purnima
Rakhi Purnima is one of the special festivals in India that symbolizes the eternal bond of brother and sister. People celebrate this festival on the full moon day of the month of Shravan, which falls in August. On this auspicious occasion, sisters tie a rakhi on the wrist of their brothers as a sign of protection. In Odisha, this festival is also known as Gahma Purnima, which celebrates the birthday of Lord Balaram, the elder brother of Lord Krishna. Moreover, as a ritual, the farmers of Odisha worship cows on this day.
Nuakhai is a popular agricultural festival of Western Odisha. As the name suggests, Nua means new, and Khai means food. So, Nuakhai is a festival to celebrate the newly harvested foods by the farmers. One day after the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi, people celebrate Nuakhai with great ecstasy. Odia people, staying in different parts of the country, come home at this time to celebrate this festival with great joy.
Time: August- September
The coastal districts of Odisha mainly observe Khudurukuni Osha on each Sunday of Odia month Bhadraba (August-September) after Gamha Purnima. It is also known as Bhalukuni Osha. During this festival, mainly the young girls pray Maa Mangala for the safety, prosperity, and good health of their brothers.
Like West Bengal, Odisha celebrates the auspicious Durga Puja in the month of Ashwin or Kartik (September and October) with great joy and enthusiasm. During Puja, the dazzling street lights, gigantic gates, and decorations of the puja mandap illuminate the whole city. The people of Odisha celebrate this festival of victory of good over evil with great reverence and joy. This festival lasts for three to four days, and the chants of Mantras at the Puja Mandap, the morning and evening Aarti, make the environment very sacred and enchanting. Raban Podi is another attraction of Durga Puja of Odisha.
The silver city Cuttack is one of the famous cities of Odisha, which celebrates Dussehra with great ecstasy. Moreover, Cuttack is mainly famous for huge silver backdrops and gold ornaments of Maa Durga. Cuttack’s Durga Puja is a symbol of brotherhood because all Hindus and Muslims celebrate it together with great joy. This popular festival has different names in different localities. In Puri, the festival is known as Gossaini Yatra and is marked by fierce-looking Mahisamardini. In Western Odisha, during the Mahastami, women observe Bhai Juntia for the long life of their brothers. If you are in Odisha during this festive season, then you must watch the Durga Puja of Cuttack, which gives you the same experience as West Bengal. Moreover, this festival holds an important significance for the Hindu devotees.
Chatar Jatra is the popular festival of Kalahandi, which is celebrated by Kandh people. During this festival, these people worship their family Goddess, Maa Manikeswari. This festival falls during the Mahastami of Durga Puja. During this festival, a traditional dance, Ghumura dance is performed to please Maa Manikeswari.
Time: On the day of Durga Astami
Kumar Purnima celebrates the birth anniversary of Lord Kartikeya, the elder son of Lord Shiva. Lord Kartikeya was very good looking and the most eligible bachelor in the kingdom of gods. So, young girls in Odisha celebrate this festival seeking a good looking husband as handsome as Lord Kartikeya. They perform Janhi Osha by offering Khae with Janhi (striped gourd), Cucumber, Banana, Coconut, Betel nut, etc. to the Lord Sun. A similar process is also followed in the evening, where the offering is given to Moon.
Laxmi Puja or Gajalaxmi Puja of the Dhenkanal district is one of the popular festivals of Odisha. The auspicious festival of Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth, lasts for 11 days, starting from Kumar Purnima. During this festival, people make beautifully decorated pandals to worship the Goddess. Not only Dhenkanal but also from all over the state, thousands of people come to Dhenkanal to see Lakshmi Puja.
The glorious city of Odisha Cuttack celebrates the famous Bali Jatra in the Hindu month of Kartik (October-November). The name Bali Jatra means A Voyage to Bali. Bali Jatra is held on the full moon day and lasts for seven days. This festival is celebrated at Gadagadia Ghat of the River Mahanadi, where people worship Lord Kartikeshwara. Through this festival, people commemorate the glorious past of the maritime trade of Odisha with the islands of Java, Sumatra, Bali, Borneo, and Sri Lanka. If you are in Odisha at this time, then you must visit Bali Jatra for rich traditional handicrafts and delicious foods of Odisha.
Puri Beach Festival
Puri Beach Festival is an annual celebration that is held at the beautiful seashore in November for 5 days. HRAO (Hotel and Restaurant Association of Odisha) organizes this festival, and the main purpose of this festival is to make more people aware of Odisha and to promote talented people across the globe. During this festival, various cultural events, fashion shows, food, adventure sports like Malkhamb, kabaddi, beach volleyball, etc. attract a plethora of tourists. The exhibition of Handicrafts, Handloom, and Sand Art is another attraction of the Puri beach festival.
Prathamastami is another popular festival of Odisha, falls on Ashtami Tithi (8th day) of Krushna Paksha in Odia month of Margashira (November-December). On this auspicious day, households pray for the long life and prosperity of the eldest child of the family. Enduri pitha is one of the special delicacies of this occasion.
Konark Dance Festival
State Department of Tourism organizes the annual Konark Dance Festival from December 1-5 every year. During this festival, classical dancers from the entire nation mesmerized the audience with their brilliant performances. Amidst the strokes of the musical instruments, tinkling of the anklets, and stunning movements of the dancers, the Konark temple seems to be infused with life. If you are a fan of classical dance forms, then you must visit the Konark Dance Festival once.
Time: December 1-5
Dhanu Jatra in Bargarh district of western Odisha is the largest open-air theater in Asia. It was started in the year 1948, and this folk play is based on Krishna Leela and Mathura Vijay. Every year this festival falls in December or January. This eleven-day long theatre starts with King Kansa’s accession to the throne, followed by the wedding of his sister Devaki with Basudev, and concludes with Kans Badh by his nephew Lord Krishna. Until the end of the Jatra, the local people worship the actors playing the role of Krishna and Balaram, believing that they are deities. If you are a fan of Hindu mythological characters and also want to see them performing on open-air theatre, then you must watch Dhanu Yatra of Odisha.
These are some of the most important and popular festivals that people of Odisha celebrate with great pomp and ecstasy. Apart from these, some other important festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Saraswati Puja, Diwali, and Janmashtami, which are celebrated not only in Odisha but also by different other states of India. So, if you want to enjoy the culture and tradition of Odisha, make sure to visit during one of these festivals.