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Nuakhai: Nature workshop the cultural movement (Part 1)

The world was not the same as it looks today. From barbaric to the modern era the world has journeyed a long distance of million years. One day the man considered civilized due to mental and behavioral change in his life. He started living a better life due to the discovery of fire, the invention of the wheel, and the learning of farming. These three things proved him as life changers. Mainly after the knowledge of agriculture, the people started living ingroup in different places on the bank of different rivers. Developed physical and emotional relationships and tied into a bond that was unbreakable still last breath of life.

A stable family life, unlimited food product, sufficient time for merry-making thrilled them. They lived with great joy and gratitude. A relaxed mind and joyful heart can understand better about reality. Accordingly, after a long nomadic life man started living in one place only because of the availability of sufficient food. Though air and water are the main sources of life, without food it doesn’t exist. From time immortal life has been most the lovable thing for a person. With sufficient availability of food self-confidence of life developed. Along with this the gratitude towards unseen power created in the mind and heart.

The man guessed that someone was present somewhere with whose grace miracles happened. So, it should get respect. This kind of pious thought encouraged people to worship the land and crops. When and where the tradition started, there is no record or not possible for anyone to find out but it was true that with the worship of land and crop a good tradition began. Now we are in the ultra-modern era still people around the world do worship the land and crop in different manners at different times and names. In India, the crop festivals are named Akhitritiya, Nuakhai, Nabannha, Baishakhi, Bihu, Onam, and Pongal, etc.

In the western part of Odisha, the crop worship festival Nuakhai is famous. Nuakhai or new crop offering festival. The day has been fixed as a post-Ganesh festival day or Bhadraba Sukla Panchami. Though this is a state festival, mostly people of western Odisha take part in it with great enthusiasm. Nuakhai is a major festival in this area because most of the people in this region depend on agriculture. Since they are dedicated to their land and nature, the Nuakhai festival appeals to them most. But with this different aspect of life like family, social, economics, spiritual is broadly influenced too.

Nuakhai festival unites family members under a single roof. If due to any reason misunderstanding has occurred in family and mental barriers have been created in the mind of family members this festival removes that too. Man is a social animal. It is just impossible to sustain life without the support of family and society. In every step of life, man needs support from others. In the name of Nuakhaipeople renew familial bonds. This festival brings great hope for togetherness and closeness.

In the name of presiding deity Samalesawri, Patneswari, Manikeswari, Sureswari, Khambeswari, Bhairabi, family members assemble together. The preparation starts with arranging necessary articles meant for the festival. The women of the family start preparations early in the morning. They prepare many kinds of traditional foods with new rice to dedicate to the creator.

The head of the family collects prasad from the priest of the presiding deity and distributes it among all family members along with homemade rice from the new crop. He goes to his cultivated land with milk, prepared food, flowers, lamp,  to offers  prayer for a prosperous life of entire creation of the universe by uttering:

May all be happy,

May all be healthy,

May all see good,

May not the sorrow able to touch anyone.

Om Shanti…Shanti…shanti…..

This is the main aim of Nuakhai. It believes that this world is the creation of good thought. He returns back and joins with other members of the family. Here also he distributes food made of new rice crops among others. After that, they extend respect to others, sit together, and partake in food on a happy note.

The traditional dresses are another attraction of the festival. With traditional costumes, i.e Sambalpuri way of draping a saree or other dresses family members meet people of their locality and express their respect.  Day time is spent with the preparation of food, worship of presiding deity, family get-together, and expression of feelings of togetherness with each other. The second phase of the day is totally dedicated to cultural activities.

People gather near the temple of the presiding deity to worship and to show off their talents. With activities such as dance, music, drama, traditional sports, traditional cake making takes place which goes on till hours.

After going through the structure of the Nuakhai festival one thing that comes to mind is whether the festival really carries a purpose? The answer is ‘Yes’. The celebration of Nuakhai proves that man is a social animal. It is only that due to various reasons that he becomes arrogant and insensitive and the festival reminds him of the creator, his children, and kin. The festival also proves that in spite of worldly development people are closer to nature. This festival sensitizes people to love their children and kin, to care for the people around them and to save nature.

One important thing that comes to the mind is that when Nuakhai arrives, people even get to know their neighbors or other people of their community are going through any difficulties. If any family in the neighborhood is facing financial crises and is not able to participate in the festivities then others in the community help this family like their own family. Sharing a new rice crop helps people from keeping away from any kind of discrimination.

The entire creation of almighty is just like a tree.God is the seed and the universe is the tree of that seed.After transforming into a tree the seed disappears though everywhere his presence is feltin the form of the root,steam,branch,flower and fruits. The philosophy behind this is thatall creation is part of one God tree.

Though we are different in shape, size, color, nature, elements the particle is the same i.e god particle. Whatever we see here is nothing but a particle of god so there are no differences among us. Spiritually and philosophically we all are the same. This kind of great thought can only be helpful for the people to maintain peace and harmony in the world.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own)

Satya Narayan Thakur

Lecturer in History

Balibandha Sambaipur-768005 Odisha

[email protected]

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