Odisha is a land of festivals, where people from different religions coexist harmoniously. The wide variety of festivals celebrated in Odisha is a true manifestation of its rich culture and traditions. There are many Odia festivals and celebrations, but Nuakhai is one the most exciting Celebration among them. It is one of the most pious festivals celebrated with cheer and zeal in Odisha. This agrarian festival is celebrated throughout the state but the festivity is observed with a lot of pomp and gaiety in the western region of the state. People celebrate Nuakhai as a welcome gesture to the new crop. As a harvest festival, farmers offer the first crops to the household deity on this occasion.
Nuakhai is an age-old harvest celebration in Odisha. Locally ‘Nua’ means new and ‘khai’ means food. This is not only a popular harvest festival in India but also celebrated to appreciate the passing away of the past and evil days while welcoming the new and beautiful with open arms. The festival is also known as Nuakhai Parab or Nuakhai Bhetghat.
Apart from the rituals of offering the new crop to the deity, the Nuakhai Juhar is a major ritual of the festival. On this occasion, people exchange greetings with friends, relatives and well-wishers. The elders are wished Nuakhai Juhar and they give blessings to the younger ones for long life, happiness and prosperity. This is not just a festival of any particular group, caste or creed. It is a festival celebrated by all people of the region with great enthusiasm. The festival promotes harmony, help, cooperation, friendship, love, affection and equality.
Various socio-cultural organisations organise Nuakhai Bhetghat in various places to celebrate the festive occasion. A number of cultural programmes are also organised in the evening such as Sambalpuri folk dances and songs in the evening. People dance to the tune of foot-tapping Rasarkeli and Dalkhai.
Nuakhai binds the communities together in a spirit of friendship, brotherhood and love. Such has been the popularity of the festival that people of this region residing in Bangalore Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Vishakhapatnam have also been celebrating the festival for the past one decade. Earlier, Nuakhai used to be observed on different days in various places. But since 1992, the festival has been observed on the same day throughout the state.
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