Nuakhai, as the name suggests that nua means new and khai means food. So, the festival of nuakhai is a festival to celebrate newly harvested food by the farmers. One day after the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi it is celebrated especially in the Western part of Odisha with much pump and jubilation. People staying in distant lands come back to their native places, wear new clothes and offer prayers before the God and eat delicious foods prepared from the newly harvested crops.
Nuakhai festival traces it origin to the Vedic period where the sages or Rishis used to talk about Panchyajna. One among them was Pralambana yajna which means the cutting of new crops and offering them to mother goddess as followed in Nuakhai festival.
Although it has lost its significance over the centuries, oral tradition of this festival dates back to 12th century A.D. when this festival was celebrated by Chauvan Raja Ramai Deo at Patanagarh which is currently known as Bolangir district of Odisha. The king knew the relevance of agriculture for the economic development of the state and hence the celebration of Nuakhai festival promoted the agrarian way of life in the Western Odisha region instead of the previously practiced hunting and gathering.
Nuakhai Festival gives the present society a great message of the relevance of agriculture in the economic progress of the country and the role of farmers in the process of nation building in those days and also in the present days. Hence, the development of farmers should be the key to the development of nation.
Nuakhai celebration starts with the preparation for the festival almost two weeks before the festival. 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 starting from Behrana to Nuakhai and all culminating in Juhar Bhet. In a sequential manner 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), Kina bika (purchasing), Nua dhan khuja (looking for the new crop), Bali paka (final resolve for Nuakhai by taking 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 & gift transfers).
The nuakhai juhar, which is the exchange of greetings with friends, well-wishers, and relatives symbolizes unity. This is an occasion for people to lay their differences and start relationships afresh. In the evening of Nuakhai, people meet one another, exchanging greeting seeking elder’s blessings for long life, happiness, and prosperity. Even the partitioned brothers celebrate the festival under one roof. This shows the kind of unity, fraternity and bonding the festival promotes in the society along with its agricultural relevance.
On the occasion, folk songs and dances are organized displaying local culture, tradition and various shades of the society. As the festival has achieved national outreach with people form the Western Odisha staying in different parts of the country, a showcase of folk culture, songs and traditions take place through this festival of Nuakhai.
Nuakhai festival is another great festival of the state of Odisha which is known for celebrating 13 festival in 12 months as said popularly in Odia ‘Bara Massa re Teraa Parva’.
In this holy and auspicious occasion of Nauakhai a warm wish to everyone and lets pray before Maa Samaleswari, the famous mother goddess of Sambalpur district of Odisha, to offer peace and prosperity to all.