Sambalpur: Nuakhai, easily one of the most important festivals of Western Odisha, will not see any major celebrations this year in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even though entire western Odisha is celebrating the festival at their homes to save the tradition, the usual fervour associated with this major agrarian festival is missing.
In view of the situation, the Samaleswari Temple Trust is telecasting the ‘Nabanna Lagi’ ritual live on Facebook Sunday. The ritual marks the beginning of Nuakhai.
Traditionally, the festival is observed as the ‘Panchami Tithi’ a day after Ganesh Chaturthi.
On Nuakhai, new and fresh rice is offered to the presiding deities of different districts. In Sambalpur, the new rice or ‘nabanna’ is offered to ‘Maa Samalei’.
Similarly, ‘Maa Bhairabi’ in Boudh district, ‘Maa Samalei’ in Jharsuguda and Bargarh, ‘Maa Samalei’ and ‘Sikhar Bashini’ in Sundargarh, ‘Maa Patenswari’ in Bolangir district and ‘Maa Sureswari’ in Subarnapur district are to be offered ‘nabanna’. The time for offering ‘nabanna lagi’ was fixed between 8.50am and 10.38am.
While all these shrines witnessed a huge gathering of people every year on this occasion, local administrations have banned religious congregations in view of COVID outbreak this year.
Traditionally, entire family comes together on the occasion to share the nabanna on this occasion. It also is an occasion for family reunion as people working outside comes back to their homes to celebrate the festival.
“Maintaining the tradition, people here are worshipping their presiding deities and offering the first crop to their deities. However, the social and cultural aspect of the festival is missing this time due to the pandemic,” said city-based writer Siddharth Panda.
Many people who stay away from their families will not be able to visit their homes during the festival due to the pandemic, he added while pointing out that the Nuakhai wish, popularly known as ‘Nuakhai Juhar’ will be limited to phone calls this year.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wished people on the occasion of the festival.
“The special occasion of Nuakhai is about celebrating the hardwork of our farmers. It is due to their efforts that our nation is fed. May this auspicious day bring prosperity and good health for everyone. Nuakhai Juhar,” Modi wrote in his tweet.
The special occasion of Nuakhai is about celebrating the hardwork of our farmers. It is due to their efforts that our nation is fed.
May this auspicious day bring prosperity and good health for everyone.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 23, 2020
Similarly, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik tweeted, “The new cultivated paddies have bring new hope for the people of Odisha. I wished well beings and good health for the people of Odisa. I extend my best wishes for everyone. Nuakhai Juhar!”.
— Naveen Patnaik (@Naveen_Odisha) August 23, 2020