By Rajeev Lochan Rathan: People of Kalahandi celebrated “Nuakhai” on Wednesday welcoming the new rice harvest of the season. The celebration of the festival is quite different from Western Odisha that based on Lagna of Goddess Samaleswari.
The presiding deity in Kalahandi is Goddess Maa Manikeswari and Nuakhai is celebrated according to the rituals related to the deity. The Nuakhai of Goddess Manikeswari falls on Bhadrab Shukla Dasami and people partake of the “naba anna” after offering to the presiding deity. There was a change in the festival celebration date after 28th king of Kalahandi Udit Pratap Deo married Asha Kumari Devi, the only daughter of last king of Sambalpur Narayan Sai in 1867. The queen brought along some agriculture expert families from Sambalpur and these came to be known as Gountias (big landlords).
They were permitted to celebrate Nuakhai on Rusi Panchami (as per the tradition of Sambalpur) after offering ‘naba anna’ to local village and family deities. Therefore, in many pockets that were under Gountias, Nuakhai is celebrated on Panchami.
However, in Bhawanipatna, Jaipatna, Madanpur Rampur, Lanjigarh, Thuamul Rampur areas, it is celebrated on Bhadraba Shukla Dashami which on September 23. There is another interesting tradition to the Nuakhai celebration here. The temple of Budharaja (Mahakala Bhairaba) on the campus of Manikeswari temple opens only on Mahasaptami night after remaining closed for a year. It is again closed on Bijaya Dasami.
So Nuakhai of Budharaja is observed on Maha Nabami after the completion of Chatar Yatra of Manikeswari. The royal family will wait for offering of new rice to Lord Budharaja and then only on Maha Nabami, the Royal family will take “naba anna”.
This time the colours of celebration fadded due to crop damage due to less rainfall in monsoon. Sachidananda Mahakud, President, Zilla Krusaka Samit Maha Sangha said nearly one third of Kalahandi crop has been destroyed by the seasonal killing.