Nuakhai celebrations likely to be a low key affair this year in Odisha

Sambalpur: Nuakhai, a major agrarian festival of western Odisha, will not see any major celebrations this year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nuakhai is on August 23 this time and it will be a low-key affair sans any Nuakhai Bhet — the social get- together to greet each other on the occasion, according to community leaders.

People of the region worship their presiding deities during Nuakhai celebrations as a mark of gratitude for bumper crops, good rain and favourable weather for farming activities.

As per the tradition, the farmers offer the first grains of the harvest to the deity and then partake it. The head of the family worships the household deity and offers the rice and other food before distributing the prasad among the other members.

Customarily, all the family members sit and eat together on the occasion, while the people who work outside also visit their homes to celebrate the festival.

Maintaining the tradition, people will worship their presiding deities and offer the first crop. However, the social and cultural aspect of the festival will be missing this time due to the pandemic, said city-based writer Siddharth Panda.

Many people who stay away from their families will not be able to visit their homes during the festival due to the pandemic, he said.

Family get-togethers will also be missing this time, he added.

According to folklore researcher Shyam Sundar Dhar, the Nuakhai Juhar is a major ritual of the festival apart from the practice of offering the crop to the deity.

Nuakhai Juhar is extended to the elders who bless others for long life, good health, happiness and prosperity.

Apart from wishing Nuakhai Juhar to the older members within families, people also go out and wish seniors in their locality.

Social organisations also hold Nuakhai Bhetghat on the evening of the festival, while many other events are held in villages and towns to mark the day. However, all the action will be missing this time as public gatherings are prohibited due to the pandemic, Dhar said.

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