Being a city of two and half milleniums, the city celebrates many traditional ceremonies in traditional colour and practice. The old city and also the residents of new colonies organise and enjoy the old festivals. It is said thatOdisha has thirteen important festivals in twelve months.
Rukuna Rath Yatra:
Rukuna Rath Yatra of Lord Lingaraj, a unique festival of its style is celebrated annually in Bhubaneswar. The Chariot Festival of Lord Lingaraja also called Rukuna Rath Yatra is celebrated on the day of Ashokastami every year. The festival takes place on the 8th day of the wane in the month of Chaitra (March-April) the day preceding Ramanavami. On the day of Ashokastami three deities i.e. Chandrasekhar (the representative of lord Lingaraja), Rukmini Basudeva are ceremonially brought to ascend chariot. Then the four-wheeled 35-ft wooden chariot is drawn to Rameswar temple. The deities and the chariot remain there for four days called Gundicha Ghar. During their stay at Gundicha Ghar; in a striking resemblance to the chariot festival at Puri; Parvati comes on the 3rd day to express her indignation, as she was not made to accompany her consort Lord Lingaraja in the Chariot. She then breaks a portion of the Chariot and returns back to the temple. On the fifth day, the three deities start the return journey called Bahuda. While returning the Chariot is drawn to the temple from the backside without having any turn (The Chariot does not take a turn. The altar of the deities is only changed). Hence, the saying in Odia is Rukuna Ratha Analeuta i.e. the chariot of Rukuna never turns back.
There is a Puranical historicity about the origin of the festival. It is said that Lord Ramachandra, inspite of all efforts couldn't kill Ravana as Goddess Kali was protecting him. Then he was advised by Bibhisana, the younger brother of Ravana to propitiate the Mother Goddess and to win her support. Then Ramachandra prayed the Goddess for long seven days with elaborate rituals and could please her to withdraw support from Ravana. When her favor was withdrawn it became easy for Ramachandra to kill Ravana through 'Brahmastra', the unfailing weapon. To celebrate this victory he took out Shiva and Durga, in a chariot, out of pleasure and satisfaction. From that day the festival is being observed. As the 'shoka' or sorrow of Ramachandra was removed by the death of Ravana, this day is called Ashoka (devoid of shoka) Astami or Ashokastami. Some religious texts are of the opinion that Parvati could get Shiva as her husband on this day and she became 'Ashoka' (removed off sorrowfulness) and therefore, the festival has been named as Ashokastami.
The celebration of Ashokastami starts with the Mangal Arati early in the morning followed by Sahana Mela and Mahasnana later in the day. Following the rituals, Pahandi is done, during which idols of the deities are taken to the decorated chariot. As per the decided time thousands of people pull the Chariot. Traders put up stalls on the route to sell food, decorated items, appliances, small games for children etc.
Jagara / Maha Siva Ratri:
Jagara or Siva Ratri or the night of Shiva is a festival held in honor of the God. The devotees observe strict religious discipline by abstaining from food for the day and keep themselves awake the whole night. Shiva linga is worshipped throughout the night with chanting of the Panchakshyara mantra Om! Namah Shivaya!' The next morning, they take their bath and after worshipping Shiva again break their fasts. Many are the stories narrated in the Purana about the efficacy of the observance of this festival. The devout usually break their fast after theMahadipa(a huge lamp) is lit on the spire of the temple.
Maha Shiva Ratriis aHindufestival celebrated every year in reverence of LordShiva. Sivaratri literally meansthe great night of Shivaorthe night of Shiva. This festival is observed with great sanctity by the people on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of Phalguna (February-March) every year .In Shiva Purana, Shiva says to her consort Parvati that no festival other than Shiva Ratri observed by his devotees gives Him so much pleasure and satisfaction.The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of BelorBilva/Vilvamleaves toLord Shiva, all-day fasting and an all-night-long vigil. All through the day the devotees, chant the sacred Panchakshara mantra dedicated to Lord Om Namah Shivaya. In accordance with scriptural and discipleship traditions, penances are performed in order to gain boons in the practice ofYogaand meditation, in order to reach life'ssummum bonumsteadily and swiftly throughout the night and keep a vigil to witness the sacred lamp on the temple top.
The Purana contain many stories and legends describing the origin of this festival. According to a legend it signifies the day on which Lord Shiva swallowed the deadly poison that emanated from the churning of the ocean of milkwhich would have killed the Gods. Because of it, his throat turned blue, and he was given the name Nilkantha, the blue-throated one.
Not knowing that it would not cause any harm to Him, all the Gods and Goddesses kept vigil throughout the night praying for His life. The prayer that was offered to Him that night is repeated since then on Sivaratri. Yet another story tells that at the time of the deluge [Pralaya] the whole world was covered with utter darkness and the Divine Mother restored light to the world by offering prayer to Shiva.
According to another legend that finds mention in the Purana, Brahma and Vishnu, the two supreme Gods had a difference as regards their supremacy. The matter was referred to Shiva for a verdict. Shiva then asked both the Gods to gauge the depth and measure the height of his Linga. Vishnu took the form of a boar and dived below to ascertain the depth and Brahma on his swan vehicle scaled high to ascertain the height. High above in the void Brahma came across a petal of Ketaki flower drifting downwards. As it was falling from the top of the Linga, He asked the petal about the further distance upward. The petal couldn't answer since how many ages that it was drifting downwards. Brahma refrained from going up and went to the nether world to meet Vishnu. Showing the petal He claimed to have ascertained the height of the Linga. At this false pretext, the petal objected. As Brahma was exposed because of the disclosure of the petal, He, in wrath, cursed - From this day you would be unworthy for the worship of Shiv. Vishnu, being pleased with her truthfulness blessed saying, 'On Shiva chaturdashi (the 14th day of the dark half of Phalgun month) you will be worthy for Shiva's worship. Therefore only on this day Ketaki flower has the right to be offered to the deity. On no other occasion the flower is ever used for worship. Almost all the important shrines for Shiva bear festive look during the festival. Thousands of people flock to the temples from the early rooming to offer worship to the deity. In some places big fairs are arranged where large varieties of goods and implements are bought and sold.
Shiva being an ascetic god, Maha Sivaratri is very popular with ascetics. Kusuma, a drink made with cannabis, banana, coconut, and milk, is essentially drunk by the devout. This is so because cannabis is said to have been very dear to Shiva.
The Chandan Yatra is held for twenty-one days from the Akshaya Trutiya, i.e. the third day of the bright fortnight in the month of Vaisakha. Every day the proxy image of Lord is taken to the Bindusagara, where the Lord enjoys the boating festival. The float here is moved to the Mandapa- an inlet-like structure which is more an elevated platform; in the middle of the tank.
Similar to human beings, the Hindu deities, who are modeled on human behavior pattern only, are also treated the same way. During the Chandan Yatra, they are taken out of the temples in procession for a holy patrol in water on floats or boats. It is because of the belief that all the ceremonies of the land must be culminated with an aquatic sojourn for a deity. The floats or boats of the deities are very richly decorated and are called 'Chapa'. In most of the Vishnu and Shiva temples, the 'float' festival marks the conclusion of the prime annual festival and is therefore celebrated with a great pomp and show.
Devotees take decorated representative deities of Harihara in the evening in decorated palanquins. They are accompanied by priests, musicians and dancers. A number of devotees wait for the arrival of the Lord. Upon arrival, the idols are placed on the decorated boats. These boats are rowed then for a long time by the servitors. The boats are generally red and white in color and are so designed that they resemble huge swans floating on water. The deities continue taking boat rides till early morning and then retire to their respective shrines. This procedure is followed during the entire festival. Bhaunri is the last day of the festival. Special arrangements are made for this.
Parasurashtami is the major festival celebrated in the temple on the 8th day of Ashadha (June July) when the festival image of Lingaraj is taken to the Parasurameswar temple and feasted. Lord Lingaraj hands over the power to rule to Parsuram and goes for a long sleep of around 4 months.
Khandagiri Mela / Magha Mela Fair:
Khandagiri Mela alias Khandagiri Kumbha Mela is a colorful one week long fair held at Khandagiri, on the lunar month of Magha (January and February). This cultural fair displays various types of local hand made products for sale. Large number of vendors from different parts gathers at Khandagiri mela here to sell their products. The most notable thing about Khandagiri mela is that it is observed in the nighttime.
About 450 makeshift stalls, each measuring 8x8 sq ft, are erected on both sides of the road connecting NH-5 to the Khandagiri hills.
The Mela coincides with Magha Saptami. Leaders and followers of various Hindu religious sects assemble here in large numbers from far and wide every year during the mela. The saints usually come to Chandrabhaga beach at Konark for a holy dip. Later they proceed for Khandagiri to participate in the rituals of holy fire (yajna) being conducted at the hill for the past 44 years.
The mela is a much-awaited affair for the women who prefer to buy a wide variety of household goods from the fair; artisans and crafts persons coming here from different parts of Odisha. The fair is a show case of other contemporary Odisha cultural shows called Jatra or open dais drama. Several groups perform their shows in the night. The shows are known for their melodrama and group dances.
A city-based Kalu Nanda Memorial Foundation, in association with different departments of the State government and Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre, Kolkata, is hosting a week-long annual festival of dance and music here that has added a contemporary flavor to the ancient fair.
Habisa at Bindusagar:
In the month of Kartika falling around October-November, widows and elderly ladies perform a month of penance. Old widows from various parts of Odisha come to Bhubaneswar and stay together in Dharmasalas or pilgrim houses to conduct the month long rituals. Early morning the vow keepers gather around Tulasi dais for Chaura Puja. They draw various symbols using organic color powder. In the afternoon a Brahmin priest recites the ancient scripture or Purana of the month. The celebration ends with boat festival.
Kartika purnima is celebrated in Bhubaneswar by the local community. It is an Odia festival conducted to remember the glorious past of the Odisha marine traders. Odisha had a thousand years of tradition of trading in south East Asia. The traditional trading was stopped by the colonial British rulers to promote their marine traders.
The festival is being organized by the Department. It would feature solo, duet and group presentations.