Bhubaneswar: Happy New Year Odisha! As the Sun enters the sign of Aries, the state plunges into a festive mood celebrating Maha Bisuba Sankranti or Mesha Sankranti.
It marks the end of spring and the beginning of summer.
On this day, special rituals are observed at the Jagannath Temple in Puri and the newly-prepared almanac is read before the sibling deities.
People fast and offer prayers in temples along with Pana (a drink prepared from wood apple), food and cloth. Special offerings are made to Shalagram, Shivalinga, Hanuman, and other deities. A small perforated pot filled with Pana or a sweet drink of Mishri and water is hung over a Tulsi (basil) plant. The flour of horse gram chhatua, along with banana and curd, is consumed by the people after offering it to the Tulsi plant.
The festivities do not end here. Devi Pithas like Cuttack Chandi, Biraja, Samaleswari Temple and Sarala remain chock-a-block with devotees, attending Jhamu Yatra (fire walks).
People observing Jhamu Brata are called Patua or holy devotee. They end their brata by walking barefoot on burning charcoal as a part of their penance and to express gratitude to the goddess for having fulfilled their wishes.
In North Odisha it is observed as Chadak Parva and in the South, the day is celebrated as the end of month-long Danda Nata, and the closing ceremony is known as Meru Yatra.
The participants of Danda Nata are usually called Dandua and the chief as Pata Dandua, who move from village to village performing to sounds of drums, cymbals and conch shells, while inflicting pain to self. They pierce iron nails on their back, make snakes sting their bodies, walk on fire and sharp swords, to appease Shiva.
Maha Bisuba Sankranti is similar to New Year festivals like Baisakhi (Punjab), Bihu (Assam), Maithili New Year, Naba Barsha or Poila Boishakh (Bengal), Vishu (Kerala) and Puthandu (Tamil Nadu).
Relish chhatua and Pana, while beginning a new cycle of life!