Sambalpur: The ‘lagna’ (auspicious time) for offering nabanna (new rice) to Goddess Samaleswari, the presiding deity of Sambalpur, has been fixed for September 3 between 10:05am to 10:20am. According to Odia almanac, it is the fifth day of lunar fortnight of the month of Bhadraba.
Following the age old tradition, the priests and pundits from different areas assembled at Brahmapura temple at Jhaduapada Saturday, a day after Janmastami to decide the lagna.
As the temple atmosphere reverberated with ‘Bishnu Sahashranam’ and ‘haribol’ coupled with sound of conch and gongs, the pundits went about seeking permission from the deity for fixing the ‘lagna’. Later, the lagna calculated by the pundits were put together to finalise the auspicious time.
The time was read out before the deity of Brahmapura and Radha Krushna on the ‘Jhulan Mandap’.
Thereafter, the members of Brahmapura Trust Board Committee and the priests and pundits were taken out in a procession to Samaleswari temple.
The temple priests there welcomed them and as per the tradition, priest of the Brahmapura temple Santosh Kumar Panda offered the ‘lagna patra’, coconut and flowers to Maa Samaleswari.
Trust Board president Saroj Kumar Dalapata supervised all the activities.
The fixation of ‘lagna’ ushers in ‘Nuakhai’, the mass agrarian festival observed in western Odisha. What Onam is to Kerala and Bihu to Assam, ‘Nuakhai’ is to western Odisha. It is celebrated with all fervor and enthusiasm in the districts like Sambalpur, Deogarh, Bargarh, Jharsuguda, Sundergarh, Bolangir, Kalahandi, Subarnapur and Boudh.
The ‘Nuakhai’ festival begins with collection of paddy. The family head goes to the paddy field early in the morning to collect paddy after offering flowers and milk to the crop and mother earth. The collected ‘Nabanna’ (new grain) is then offered to the deity. The family follows up by cooking the processed rice with milk, sugar and other traditional items. The family head distributes this cooked rice among the family members and guests.
On this occasion the younger members seek blessings from elders in families and in locality as well. And in a ritual called ‘Nuakhai Bhet Ghat’, people hug and greet each other.