The style and manner of celebrating Indian festivals have changed drastically over the years, thanks to rapid modernisation in the country. Moving away from the tradition, the celebrations have become more an opportunity for the affluents to flaunt their riches. Be it Holi, Diwali, Dussehra, Makar Sankranti or Maha Shivratri, most festivals have lost their charm. Dola Yatra, a festival to celebrate Radha-Krishna’s divine love and to welcome Spring, is no exception.
However, the residents of Madanpur, a village on the outskirts of Odisha’s capital city Bhubaneswar, haven’t forgotten their roots. They have been celebrating Dola Yatra or Dola Purnima for over 400 years without deviating from their age-old traditions. After a hiatus of two years due to Covid restrictions, the villagers have now geared up for the occasion this year.
Ahead of Dola Purnima, Sunday POST visited the village to know more about festivity.
Dola or Basantostav which coincides with Holi is a big occasion for the residents of Madanpur. At the beginning, the idol of Nilakantheswar Dev, the presiding deity of the village, is taken to an elevated platform for public viewing. Display of fire-works attracts thousands of people to witness the festivity which has been celebrated for more than 400 years. After Raghurajpur, Panchu Dola Melan at Madanpur is unique in many respects. While Dola Yatra is observed for a day or two in other parts of India, the celebration continues for 15 days in Madanpur.
Elaborating more, Bibudhendra Bidyadhara, a resident of Madanpur says, “Madanpur is famous for Panchu Dola Melana. The ‘melana’ (congregation) is observed on the day of ‘Dola Purnima’. The uniqueness of this tradition is that deities from 23 nearby villages are congregated at the vast ‘melana’ ground. As per the traditions, on the day of Trayodashi Chandrasekhar Dev, the representative idol of Lord Nilakantheswar placed in a decorated Biman or palanquin is taken out of the temple in a grand procession amidst ‘sankirtan’, traditional dances like Paika dance and Naga dance, the beating of gongs and bursting of firecrackers. Also, Harihara Bheta is another attraction of the Melana. Lord Nilakantheswar of our village and Lord Balunkeswar of Tamando are considered siblings. Lords Nilakantheswar and Balunkeswar symbolise Lord Shiva aka Hara, and Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu of Jagasarapatna symbolises Lord Krishna aka Hari. Idol of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is taken out of the temple for a meeting with Lords Nilakantheswar and Balunkeswar. Their union is called Harihara Bheta (meeting of Hari with Hara). The festival witnesses a footfall of more than 10,000. On the night of Jamana, fireworks worth lakhs are burst across the Melana ground. Saints of various sects also grace the occasion. It is believed that one gets her wish fulfilled if she consumes Pitha Bhoga offered to Chandrasekhar Dev during the festivity. As incredible as it may sound, I have seen women overcome infertility after consuming the bhog.”
He continues: “At a time when Naga dance is on the brink of disappearance, we try our best to keep this folk dance form alive by performing it during Holi. It involves energetic and stimulating dance performances by men. Naga dance is the most entertaining part of this 15-day carnival. The dancers perform Naga Nacha wearing oversized masks of devils, kings and queens. Another important segment of the festival is Ganaka or Jyothisha (astronomer-cum-fortune teller) reads out the new Odia almanac and narrates the important events that are to take place during the year. This is the reason why many people believe the festival heralds the Odia New Year.”
When God plays Holi with devotees
Dharmendra Chamapti, who assists the Sankritan Mandali to perform, says, “For me, Dola Purnima is an occasion when God descends on earth to play Holi with his devotees. Cultural events like sankirtan and folk dance performances add radiance to the festivity. Sankirtan team members play the musical instruments to make the procession of Chandrasekhar Dev more special. Vimanas are decorated with flowers and mango leaves. Each household in the village offers bhog to the Lord. Deities from as many as 23 villages are brought to meet Lord Chandrasekhar Dev to mark the culmination of the Dola Parva. Before that, the representative idol is made to visit deities of neighbouring villages after being taken out of the temple on the day of Trayodashi. It visits villages like Mendhasala, Sahapur and Jagasarapatna to kick off the Melana Parba. The idol of Lord Chandrasekhar Dev is placed at ‘Asthana’ during those days before his entry into the temple after the end of festivity. The daily rounds of the deity are called Chachery. The people who follow the procession play with abira. On the final day of the Purnima, the celebration culminates with a swing festival for the deities.”
Champati goes on to add: “Paika dance is the central attraction of Madanpur Melana. It is performed for the amusement of the crowd during the festival. Display of martial art forms an important part of the Paika dance. Artistes use swords, shields and lathis as props for performing acrobats and gymnastics.”
On the mythological significance of Dola Purnima, Dharmendra says, “When one is expiated from all sins he gets a view of Lord Krishna swaying in the swing. That’s why people irrespective of caste, creed and community throng the site and smear abir on each other’s foreheads as a mark of bonhomie and camaraderie.”
Culmination of Melan Utsav
Narendra Champati, a retired deputy director of Odisha Animal Husbandry and Veterinary services, says, “Dola Yatra is performed from the 10th day of bright fortnight to full moon day of Falguna. On this occasion, deities from different villages are taken to the Melana Padia (field) on Dola, a specially designed temple-like structure made from wood – and people celebrate the festival by spraying colours on each other. On the day of Melana, deities from 23 villages like Mahura, Jagasarapatna, Tamando, Kashipur, Aiginia and Baliapada are brought in palanquins and Melana ritual is held with fanfare. The congregation of deities called Panchu Dola continues amidst blowing of conches and performance of various rituals. One such ritual is the host deity’s invitation to other deities with offerings of ‘bhog’ and ‘Hari-Har Bheta’. Saralabani ritual is held to mark the culmination of Melana Utsav. We usually pool funds to organise the event every year. The idol of Chandrasekhar Dev is kept at Akhada ground so that He can visit the other deities. On the very day when the Odia almanac is read, the Lord visits Jagasarapatna to take bhog. The Lord visits 12 villages in 12 days in procession. It also visits door-to-door when people put colours to the deities and offer bhog, known as ‘Chacheri Bhoga’. Deities congregate at the Jamana Padia where devotees shower the idols with abir. Crackers are burst on the day of Melana. Lord Nilakantheswar is brought back to the sanctum
sanctorum of the temple following the end of 15-day festivity.”
Rashmi Rekha Das, OP