About Nuakhai festival
Nuakhai festival is an agriculture festival celebrated primarily in western Odisha by farmers to thank ‘Mother Earth’ for being so bountiful. The word nua means new and khai means food, so the name means the farmers are in possession of the newly harvested rice. Nuakhai is also called Nuakhai Parab or Nuakahi Bhetghat. It is celebrated with the offering of thr prasad prepared from the first harvest crop to Goddess Samaleswari, the presiding deity of the region. Nuakhai is observed to welcome the new rice of the season. It has a big significance for farmers and the agricultural community.
When it is celebrated
According to the Kosali calendar it is observed on panchami tithi (the fifth day) of the lunar fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada or Bhaadra (August–September).
Where it is celebrated
Nuakhai is the agricultural festival of people of Western odisha. The festival is observed throughout Odisha, but it is particularly important in the life and culture of Western Odisha. It has its best celebration in the Kalahandi, Sambalpur, Balangir, Bargarh, Sundargarh, Jharsuguda, Sonepur, Boudh and Nuapada districts of Odisha. It is celebrated across areas of Jharkhand.
People in the Western Odisha region initiate preparations for the event 15 days in advance. Nuakhai is understood to have nine colours and as a consequence, nine sets of rituals are followed as a prelude to the actual day of celebration. These nine colours include:
Beheren (announcement of a meeting to set the date)
Lagna dekha (setting the exact date for partaking of new rice)
Daka haka (invitation)
Sapha sutura and lipa puchha (cleanliness)
Ghina bika (purchasing)
Nua dhan khuja (looking for the new crop)
Bali paka (final resolve for Nuakhai by taking the Prasad (the offering) to the deity)
Nuakhai (eating the new crop as Prasad after offering it to the deity, followed by dancing and singing)
Juhar bhet (respect to elders)
Thousand of devotees thronged the temple and sought the blessings of the goddess. After the festival is oberseved in the temple, then people celebrate the festival in their homes. Prasad is offered to the people. Then, the younger ones pay respect to the elders to get their blessings. People staying away for their houses join the family to celebrate the festival.
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.
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