Ten Advantages Of Rituals Of Nuakhai And How You Can Make Full Use Of It
The preparations begin some 15 days prior to the date of the festival when the elderly persons of the village sit together at a holy place after the beheren calls the villagers by blowing a trumpet. Then people get together and discuss with the priests the tithi and Lagna (auspicious day and time) for Nuakhai.
The priest consults the panjika (astrological almanack) and announces the sacred muhurta (a period of time equal to about 48 minutes) when nua is to be taken.
This part of the preparations shows elements of both the original tribal festival and elements of the Hindu religion.
When the caste-Hindus migrated into the area the local tribal people adopted the idea of an astrological calculation of the tithi and Lagna for the Nuakhai festival.
In the same way, when the caste-Hindus adopted Nuakhai from the tribal people, they introduced some Sanskritic elements so as to make it more readily accepted by the caste-Hindus. There was an attempt made during the 1960s to set a common tithi for the Nuakhai festival all over western Odisha.
It was decided this was not a workable idea. The idea was reintroduced in 1991 to set the Bhadraba Sukla Panchami tithi for the Nuakhai festival.
This became successful and since then, the festival has been celebrated on that day, and the Odisha State Government has declared it an official holiday. Although for the sake of convenience a common auspicious day is set for Nuakhai, the sanctity of the ritual has not lost its importance.
Today, however, the system of setting the tithi and Lagna and calling elderly persons for a consensus does not happen in urban areas. Nuakhai is celebrated both at the community and domestic levels.
The rituals are first observed at the temple of the reigning deity of the area or to the village deity.
Afterwards, the people worship in their respective homes and offer rituals to their domestic deity and to Lakshmi, the deity of wealth in the Hindu tradition. People wear new clothes for the occasion.
It is a tradition that after offering the nua to the presiding deity, the eldest member of the family distributes nua to other members of the family. After taking the nua, all the junior members of the family offer their regards to their elders. Thereafter follows the nuakhai juhar, which is the exchange of greetings with friends, well-wishers, and relatives.
This symbolizes unity. This is an occasion for people to lay their differences to rest and start relationships afresh. Towards the evening people meet one another, exchanging greetings. All differences are discarded and elders are wished nuakhai juhar.
The elders bless their juniors and wish them long life, happiness, and prosperity. Even the partitioned brothers celebrate the festival under one roof.
In the evening, folk dances and songs are organized called "Nuakhai Bhetghat". People dance to the foot tapping traditional Sambalpuri dance forms like Rasarkeli, Dalkhai, Maelajada, Chutkuchuta, Sajani, Nachnia, and Bajnia.