We Odia 's celebrate 13 festivals in 12 months,there goes the saying for that "Bara mase,Tera parva". So there is no such period,when you won't find the ladies of an Odia household preparing for something coming up or something going on. It is most often known as Land of Festivities. Every part of Orissa has something to offer. Be it is a cultural festival or a religious festival or a tribal festival ,it is celebrated with enthusiasm and fun.
Some part of my childhood was spent in rural Orissa. And my most memorable festivals are "Raja Sankranti" and "Kumar Purnima". "Kumar Purnima" is celebrated during the month of october or november on a full moon day. Kumar or kartikeya, the handsome son of God Shiva was born on that day . As he is the Eternal bachelor and the God of war ,all unmarried girls keep fasting and worship Him to get a husband like Him in life. Before the day breaks, girls take their purificatory bath to worship the sun god,which is known as"Anjuli teka".The offerings are made by fruits and "khai". In the evening when the full moon comes out in the bright clear autumn sky girls get ready to worship the moon. With fruits,flowers ,ukhuda and other sweet offerings, we believed that if one saw the moon late and made a late offering , she will get an old husband, as the moon was "old" now.the evening sky was full with noise of the conch shelland hulahuli .Though sometimes i have made late offerings ,am thankful to Kumar Kartikeya for granting me a young husband. Among the offerings my favorite is the mixed prasad or the "chanda chakata". it is made with khai, chhena(cottage cheese),fruits,yogurt, jaggery. Miss all those beautiful times. When we are small, we become impatient to grow up and later on we want to go back in time to enjoy a few more good old golden days. As a human being, we are never satisfied.
To celebrate the advent of monsoon,the joyous festival of "Raja sankranti"is celebrated for three days. Though celebrated all over the state,it is more enthusiastically celebrated in the district of Cuttack, Jagatsingpur,Puri, Khurdha and Balasore. Raja is a special festival celebrated by girls. It is celebrated for three consecutive days. During this festival, Mother Earth is supposed to be in her menstrual period. So this festival is a time of rest for her. It is an agricultural holiday for the farmers,as all the agricultural operation remain suspended. During these three days, women are granted a break from the household work.Young men enjoy good food and play strenuous games on the eve of the onset of monsoon, for they will not get a minutes respite for practically four months and making them one with mud,slush and relentless shower.
Food cooked during that time was always awesome. My grandmom (Aai) used to make some mouth watering, always to remember kind of, "poda pitha".Which is the Raja special. At that time i can remember that she used to make those in clay pots("mati handi"), and food cooked in clay pots are taste very different than those cooked in regular utensils. Sometime just siting beside her near the furnace or "katha chuli" ,i used to wonder how she is manging to stir, fry and cook in such a delicate thing. She used a very different kind of spoon for those pots, a dried coconut shell,pierced by a not so thin bamboo stick . In those pots she cooked mutton or known as"mansha",pulses(dal), leafy greens(saga) and every possible dish which needs to be stirred continiously. But i have never seen her break a clay pot while doing so. And the pots lasted for years unless and until there was a death or a birth in the family,on which occasion, all the old pots were thrown away and new ones bought. During raja, my grand mom used to make nice and big poda pitha. All the ingredients required are already made before the "saja baja" day.For making the rice flour "dhhinki",a wooden version of mortar and pastel was used. Few women from the "sahi"or community used to come together for that flour making ceremony.We children generally sat there and had fun while listening to their day to day gossip. And siting there I was amazed to watch their hand movements during that process. If you are a bit absent minded ,your hand will be smashed under that heavy wooden "dhinki". In fact, I can pen down some occasions when I was injured by the very safe and so called mixies while making some masalas and with my mind flying somewhere .But they were so skilled to stir the yet to be powdered rice ,while chatting with other ladies,without any injury. Poda pitha is made one night before to the Raja Sankranti s first day or known as "Pahili Raja". As it takes a long time to cook,its left overnight over the wooden fire from the previous evening. The main ingredients required are rice flour,camphor, jaggery,coconut and ghee. Later on it is wrapped with a banana leaf to cook over night.
For the very first day,we all rose before dawn ,smothered our bodies with turmeric paste and oil and then took the purificatory bath in a river or a pond, as bathing for the rest two days was prohibited. During those three days, unmarried girls didn't walk bare foot,did not scratch the earth,did not grind,did not tear anything apart and did not cook.During these three days we dressed up in the best of dresses and decorations,eating cakes and rich food at the houses of friends and relatives,spending long cheery hours,chewing pan, enjoying on improvised swings,making the village sky colorful with our merry songs .Those days are precious in my memory and they will ever be.
Life was fun those days. Life was easier those days with joint families and community living. Someone was always there for someone else's help and needs. We are progressing,we are making developments and living alone in big cities. It is,anyway, difficult to manage our day to day life. Neither our children come to know about our culture,nor do we have the time to do so. And when we do take them home, we try to create a city atmosphere there to make them adjust to the short holiday . In some parts of the world they are again going back to community farming, community living.So where are we? Where is the progress we have already made,where is the development? Pesticides, GM foods,new diseases ,short life span is all that we have gained. Our life still dwells on the village,and hopefully we all will realise so someday.