Nuakhai is one of the unique social festivals which gets its name from the word ‘nua’ meaning ‘new’ and ‘khai’ meaning ‘food’. This traditional festival has a great significance for farmers and the agricultural community as it is performed to welcome the season’s newly harvested rice. Though celebrated throughout the state, the districts of Balangir, Sambalpur, Kalahandi, Sonepur, Bargarh, Sundargarh, Boudh, Jharsugudah, and Nuapada observe this festival with great pomp and splendor. Nuakhai is celebrated precisely a day after Ganesh Chaturthi in the ‘Panchami tithi’ or fifth day of the lunar fortnight that mostly falls in August or September. The Nuakhai festival 2021 date is 11th September.
Origin, History, and Significance of Nuakhai
Nuakhai festival traces its origin to the Vedic period when the five important annual activities of an agrarian society were mentioned in the Panchajanya by the sages. Customarily, the first crops are harvested and offered to the mother goddess with great reverence before birds or animals eat it. However, the oral tradition of Nuakhai dates back to the 12th Century A.D when this festival became a symbol of Sambalpuri culture and heritage. The first Chauhan Raja Ramai Deo of Bolangir district of Western Odisha celebrated the Nuakhai festival for promoting agriculture to generate a surplus and sustain the state’s economy.
Usually, the village headman or priest used to fix a day for Nuakhai, which later transformed into a socio-religious event in the entire Kosal region under the royal families’ patronage.
Nuakhai has evolved into an agrarian festival of both the tribals who are settled agriculturists as well as the caste-Hindu communities of Odisha. Since paddy is the staple food of Odisha, it is believed to sustain the hope and determine its inhabitants’ fate. Consequently, the new rice collection is also reckoned as an auspicious event as the farmers get the fruits of their toil after cultivation.
When is Nuakhai Celebrated
Nuakhai Juhar happens every year between August and September. Every year the exact timing of Nuakhai is astrologically determined on the day after Janmashtami by the Brahmamandap Pandit Mahasabha at Brahmaputra temple in Sambalpur district. Nuakhai festival 2021 date would be 11th September in Odisha. Since agriculture is the main source of living for Odisha’s inhabitants, this auspicious occasion marks the gratitude for a bumper crop and abundant rain while nurturing the appreciation for rice cultivation, which is itself a symbolic manifestation of life.
How is Nuakhai Celebrated and Where to Go
Nuakhai Juhar is an annual festival to welcome the season’s new rice. Generally celebrated a day after Ganesh Chaturthi. Announcement of a meeting to set a date for the festival, setting the exact date for partaking of new rice, invitation, cleanliness of the house, purchasing goods, looking for the new crop, offering the new crop to the deity, eating the Prasad, singing, dancing and finally paying respect to elders and exchanging gifts with relatives are part of the nine sets of rituals that are followed to celebrate the Nuakhai event. One can participate in the community functions known as “Nuakhai Bhetghat” and witness traditional Sambalpuri dance forms like Dalkhai, Sajani, Rasarkeli, and Maelajada, Nachnia, Chutku Chuta, and Bajnia or taste the traditional delicacies that add a unique flavor to the joyous occasion.
In Sundergarh, the royal family worshipped the goddess Sekharbasini in the temple that opens only for the Nuakhai festival. Extensive Nuakhai festivities can also be witnessed in parts of Southern Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, where the Odia culture is predominant. In addition to these, these following places of worship for Nuakhai can be reached by a well-connected road network with the nearby major cities of Odisha:
- Maa Manikeshwari Temple, Kalahandi – Hundreds of devotees following this Nuakhai ritual flock to offer prayers to the presiding deity of Bhawanipatna, Maa Manikeshwari.
- Kosaleshwari Temple, Titlagarh – Maa Kosaleswari is a part of the Shakta cult and is worshipped with great religious fervor in this temple during Nuakhai.
- Samaleswari Temple, Sambalpur - The Samaleswari Temple in Sambalpur district is famous for its Nabanna Lagi ritual of Nuakhai.
- Sureswari Temple, Sonepur – Located at the temple town of Subarnapur district of Odisha, Nuakhai is offered to one of the oldest Shakti shrine, Maa Sursuri.
- Pataneswari Temple, Balangir- Situated 40 km away from Balangir, this ancient temple is the abode of Maa Pataneswari, the first Chauhan King Ramai Dev’s prime deity.
Suppose you’re planning a quick vacation to any of Western Odisha regions, where you can experience the stunning display of Nuakhai festivities. In that case, redBus can take you to the desired destination in the most comfortable manner. Book an online bus ticket through redBus most reliably and conveniently. Just download the redBus app now or visit the redBus, India website to book your tickets and enjoy the traditional extravaganza with friends and families.
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