Bhawanipatna/Bolangir: As COVID pandemic has been spreading all over the state, the administration kept imposing restrictions amid shutdowns and lockdowns. Amid such gloomy scenes, Nuakhai, a major agrarian festival of western Odisha, beginning Sunday will apparently see muted celebrations.
On the eve of Naukhai, people worship their household deities as a mark of gratitude for bumper crops, good rain and favourable weather. This year Nuakhai will be observed August 23 with certain protocol in place.
As per the age-old tradition, during Nuakhai, the eldest member of the family worships the household deity and offers rice and other harvests. All the family members sit and eat together during the celebration. People from all over, especially migrant workers, return to their homes to celebrate the festival.
Due to the restrictions this year, a traditional social gathering organised by local people to greet each other stands cancelled. Following the social distancing guidelines, people are being encouraged to celebrate at home without holding community Puja. A gathering of more than five people is prohibited.
However, in western Odisha, certain district administrations have withdrawn the weekend shutdown to enable people to celebrate Nuakhai. Although the number of cases is rising in these regions, locals hailed the decision of the district officials.
Folklore researcher Shyam Sundar Dhar said social organisations in towns hold ‘Nuakhai Bhetghat’ in the evening of the festival to uphold ancient traditions. In contrast, various events are held in villages religiously to mark the day. Nonetheless, all the rituals, both in towns and villages, will be dropped this time as public gatherings are prohibited.