Odisha CM Seeks ‘National Maritime Heritage Festival’ Status For Cuttack’s Bali Jatra

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Bhubaneswar: A week after recognising Cuttack’s Bali Jatra as a state-level festival, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik shot off a letter to the Centre, requesting it to accord ‘National Maritime Heritage Festival’ status to the historic annual trade fair of Odisha.

In a letter to Union Tourism and Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel, Naveen on Tuesday said, “As India looks to the East to revive the age-old contacts with South East Asia aiming at mutual economic growth of India and the countries in that region, it would be appropriate and timely that Bali Jatra, which celebrates the enterprising spirit of ancient India, is recognised at the National level.”

This will be a step towards acknowledging the daring initiatives of our seafaring ancestors, he added.

Elaborating on the annual fair in the Millennium City, the Chief Minister said that Bali Jatra commemorates the glorious tradition of seafaring activities of Odia mariners (Sadhavas). “The festival begins in the month of November on the full-moon day of Kartika (Purnima) and continues for seven to ten days. It is celebrated annually as a large open fair and is considered to be one of the most celebrated festivals of Odisha,” he wrote.

He further said that maritime heritage and overseas trade related achievements of ancient India are evident in Indus Seals. “On the Eastern seaboard, it was the Odia mariners (Sadhavas) who were the torchbearers of the Indian maritime prowess in ancient times. The footprints of this enterprise are evident in South East Asia, particularly in Bali, Java and Sumatra. The people of Indian origin in general are known as `Klings’ in South East Asian countries and this could be an indication of the old association with Kalinga in terms of trade and cultural exchanges,” he said.

Naveen said that the cultural interactions between eastern parts of India, particularly of ancient Kalinga, can easily be observed in the customs and traditions (language, cuisine, dress, dance forms, rituals) in Bali. “In that sense, the Bali Jatra of Cuttack and the identical cultural traits in Bali reminds us of this legacy,” he wrote, while requesting for the recognition of the same.

On November 2, the Odisha government recognized the annual trade fair as a state-level festival and decided to provide special grants from the Tourism, Culture and Housing and Urban Development departments. This was aimed at harnessing the tourism and cultural potential of the fair, which is the biggest in Asia and spread over acres of land and houses an estimated 1,500 stalls.

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