Orissa > Social Practices, Rituals and Festive events

Akshaya Trutiya

This festival is celebrated on the third day of the brilliant fortnight of the lunar month of Vaishakha (April). This important festival is held in every farming household in Odisha. It is considered the most auspicious day and is characterized by the ceremonial sowing of paddy in the field. 'Bhog'/'Prasad' is offered to Sathi—the goddess of destiny. Religious scriptures testify that Ganga, the sacred river of India landed on the Earth on this day from heaven. She is the perennial source of water, which is the basic need for agriculture. Therefore, this favorable day was chosen to start sowing seeds.

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Applique Works

This traditional patchwork art—applique has a long history in Odisha. The art form is typically dependent on four basic colours i.e., red, white, black and yellow to produce a striking effect. In recent years, green colour and embroidery work has been applied vigorously enlivening the craft even more.

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Bakula Amabasya

Bakula Amavasya, popularly known as Vakula Amavasi, is observed during the month of December and January in Orissa. The festival is primarily dedicated to the mango trees, as this is the season of the mango blossoms. The new fruits are called baula in Oriya. Special food is prepared on this day and offered in temples as well as to the mango trees. The ritual is performed to invoke a rich mango harvest during the season.

Bada Osa

A festival of fasting called the Bada Osa is observed in every Hindu Oriya family during the month of November. It is primarily celebrated at Dhabaleswar temple in Cuttack district. The Lord is worshipped with the offering of bhoga (i.e. prasad) named gajabhoga (a sweet made of milk derivatives) and attakali (a local sweet dish made with flour) followed by the Bada Singhara Besha which is considered a most pious occasion by the devotees. These rituals hark back to the story of Lord Indra who took a holy dip here on full moon day in the month of Kartika to rid himself of the leprosy inflicted by Brahma's curse.

Chhau Dance

The Chhau dance is prevalent in the tribal belt of the bordering areas of the provinces of Orissa, Jharkhand and West- Bengal in eastern India. The dances are performed by many different communities such as as Mundas, Mahatos, Kalindis, Pattnaiks, Samals, Darogas, Mohantys, Acharyas, Bhols, Kars, Dubeys, and Sahoos, whereas the musicians come from the communities such as Mukhis, Kalindis, Ghadheis, Dhada.

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Chitalagi Amabasya

Chitalagi or 'Chitaou Amavasya' is one such festival of Odisha which is being celebrated on the new moon day of the month 'Shravana' (August). On this day, in the temple of Jagannath, the deity bears a golden mark (Chita) on his forehead. A special variety of rice-cake known as 'Chitou Pitha' is being offered to the deity. It is in the primitive tradition to appease evil powers through worship whether they are animals, serpents, insects or plants. People worship and pray them to avoid their wrath. Therefore, during the festival the pilas (one species of molluscs) is appeased as a female form of evil power known as 'Gandeisuni' (Genda means Pila). The farmer girls go to the fields and while offering cakes pray. "Oh; Gandeisuni, be appeased and do not cut the legs of my father or brother who will be working in this field".

Cock Fight

Cock Fight

Cockfight is a blood sport between two roosters (cocks), held in a ring called a cockpit. Two owners of the cock place their game cock in the cockpit. The cocks fight until one of them dies or is critically injured. Cockfighting is a favorite sport of people living in Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Balasore district of Odisha.

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Dhanu Yatra

Observed in December-January, the Dhanu Yatra of Bargarh in western Odisha is an 11 day theatre festival. Dhanu Yatra is the theatrical presentation of Krishna Leela enacted to bring the old myth alive on locations from the marriage of Devaki with Vasudeva till the death of Kansa as described in the scriptures. The entire town transforms itself into Mathura, and the episodes from the marriage of Devaki and Vasudev, the birth, growing up of Krishna and the slaying of Kans are enacted on various stages in the town, making it probably the world's largest open air theatre. The entire town participates in the festival.

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Jhamu Yatra


'Jhamu Yatra' is the significant and popular festival of Goddess 'Mangala' and celebrated at Kakatpur block in Puri district of Odisha. It occurs on the first Tuesday of the sacred month of Vaisakh (April 14 to May 15) every year.

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This folk art of Odisha is bound up with its social and religious activities. In the month of Margasira, women folk worship the goddess Lakshmi. It is the harvest season when grain is thrashed and stored. During this auspicious occasion, the mud walls and floors are decorated with murals in white rice paste or pithau.

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Mahari Dance originated in the temples of Odisha. History provides ample evidence of the 'Devadasi' cult in Odisha. The dance form that was being practiced by these Devdasis in the ancient times was called Mahari. The word "Mahari" in fact is formed by combining two words Maha and Nari that literally means great women. These Devadasis were considered sacred and were to perform only for the Lord Jagganath.

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This festival is celebrated on the bright half in the month of 'Bhadrab'. A widely practiced custom among the tribal as well as non-tribal population of Odisha is the offering of the first fruits to the deities, especially to the village deities. Paddy is the most significant crop which is respected as Goddess Laxmi. There is a special variety of early paddy which is already ripe by this time and the festival is intended for eating new rice of the year. On this occasion the new rice is cooked with milk and sugar ('Khiri') and then offered as 'Bhog' to Goddess of wealth Maa Laxmi. Meeting and exchanging greetings with friends and relatives, singing, dancing and merry-making is part of the festival.

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Kaudi Khela

Kaudi Khel (Cowry Play) is one of the post-marriage ritual performed in Odisha. The groom hold one cowry (a kind of sea shell) in his hand and bride tries to get it by forcefully opening his hand. Then this happens other way around. It is a kind of fun power play to entertain the gatherings.

Palm Leaf Paintings

Palm leaf paintings are very ancient in Odisha. The Palm Leaf illustrations are mainly of two types, simple engravings or illustrations in pure line on palm leaf and engraving with colour fillings. In these engravings, colours are muted and play a very minor part. Where colours are at all applied, they are just painted either to emphasize the inscriptions, or to fill up blank space.

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Pandu Purnima

Pandu Purnima is observed on the full moon day in the month of 'Margashira' (November – December). The day is of great significance in Odisha and especially in Lord Jagannath Temples. Lord Jagannath is believed to be performing 'Shradh' to his parents during his incarnations of Lord Krishna and Lord Ram. Thousands of devotees gather to have this rare sight of Lord Jagannath with white silk cloth in the special occasion.

Rajo Utsav

The advent of monsoon is welcomed by celebrating the joyous festival of 'Rajo'. It is being arranged for three days by the villagers. Though celebrated all over the state in Odisha, it is more enthusiastically observed in the districts of Cuttack, Puri and Balasore. The first day is called "Pahili Raja" (Prior Raja), second is "Raja" (Proper Raja) and third is "Basi Raja" (Past Raja). During the festival all agricultural operations remain suspended. In the festival, swings are being arranged of different varieties, such as 'Ram Doli', 'Charki Doli', 'Pata Doli', 'Dandi Doli'. Girls scatter beauty, grace and music all around, and enjoy the swings during the festival. The special variety of cake prepared out of recipes like rice-powder, molasses, coconut, camphor, ghee etc. goes in the name of "Poda Pitha" (burnt cake). The size of the cake varies according to the number of family members. Cakes are also exchanged among relatives and friends.

Raksha Panchami

Raksha Panchami is one of the most important festivals in Puri district of Odisha. It is being observed on the fifth day in second half during the month of 'Shravana'. 'Raksha Panchami' is popularly celebrated as 'Rekha Panchami' in many places in Odisha. During Rekha Panchami, Lord Bhairava, one of the forms of Lord Shiva is worshipped. Rekha Panchami (Rekha ~line is drawn) is celebrated to be protected of wild animals like tiger, wolf and wild dogs.

Rath Yatra

Rath Yatra

Ratha Yatra (Car Festival) is associated with Lord Jagannath, held at Puri in the state of Odisha, India. Ratha yatra, the Festival of Chariot celebrated every year at Puri, the temple town in Odisha, on the second day of shukla pakshya (waxing cycle of moon) of Ashadh Maas (3rd month in Lunar Calendar). Most of the city's society is based around the worship of Jagannath with the ancient temple being the fulcrum of the area.

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Samba Dasami

'Samba Dashami' is one among the unique rituals observed on the 10th day during the 'Shukla Paksha' or waxing phase of moon in the month of 'Pausha' (December – January). This festival is dedicated to Lord Surya (Sun) mainly observed in Odisha

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Sathi Puja

Sathi puja is basically observed at Puri and Ganjam district in Odisha. It is being observed by mothers for the welfare of their children. Six small doll-like images of 'sathi' (sisters) are made by using 'haldi' (turmeric) and amla paste. The dolls are being worshiped by offering a curry dish in which six types of 'saag' (leaves) and six types of vegetables are mixed. Six number of 'chakuli pitha' (cake made out of rice and black-gram powder) are also offered. The mother also used to worship her own child on this auspicious occasion. The mother beats her chldren mildly on the back by using this bunch of twigs consisting of 'Apamaranga', 'Bajramuli', 'Saru', 'Amba' (mango), 'Bichuati', and 'Barakoli'.