Origin of the Festival in Odisha
Dussehra as the festival is popularly known in Northern India, essentially celebrates the victory of “Good over Evil”. According to legend on the 10th Day i.e. Vijay Dasami- Lord Rama killed Demon King Ravana.
The worship of Goddess Durga started in Odisha (then known as Kalinga) in the year 300 BC under King Suratha of the Chedi dynasty, the worship of earthen idol worship was inculcated by the King Chodaganga Dev of the Ganga dynasty in the 11th century AD.
In Odisha, Basanti Puja also called Chaitra Puja during the month of March/April was quite prevalent.
Cuttack till recently was the major city in Odisha which celebrated the Durga Puja in a major way. Right now the Puja is famous all across Odisha. Some of Cuttack’s Durga pandals have significant historical background associated with it, which was largely responsible for the inclusive society which we witness today. Mentioned below are some of the puja’s with a rich historical background.
Binod Behari Puja has a special significance in the evolution of the Durga Puja in Cuttack and Odisha in general. The Sharadiya Durga Puja ritual (Dusshera held in the month of Sept/Oct) gained prominence when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited Cuttack during his tour of Odisha from 1512 AD to 1517 AD and established the Durga Puja at Binod Bihari math in Balu Bazaar, Cuttack. The puja was carried forward by the Banerjee family who settled in the area. In 1517 the Banerjee family initiated the clay idol worship of the Goddess . Thus the Binod Bihari Durga idol is the oldest in the city and the Puja follows the tradition laid down by the revered saint till this day. The puja was open for public (sarbojanin) probably around 1890.
The Odia Bazar Puja is also significant since it was started by none other than Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose to foster community building amongst the residents of the city in 1916.
The Kazi Bazar Puja was initiated by the Bengali and Odia employees of East India Company in 1832. Making it the first Sarbojanin Durga Puja in the city.
Though the festival is famous in West Bengal, where the Goddess is ushered in with a lot of pomp and reverence. However the earliest known Durga Puja, being conducted continuously at the same venue anywhere in the world, is in Odisha. The Ghosh Mahashay family (Roy Family) has been hosting the Goddess for over 500 years at their family home in Rameswarpur, district Bhadrak . They are originally from Kotarang, near Howrah and came to Odisha along with Todarmal- the iconic revenue minister of Emperor Akbar, during his famed land survey of India between 1570 and 1580 and settled in Rameswarpur . The puja helped to popularise the Sharadiya Durga Puja further in the state.
Durga Puja in Odisha
Both the Basanti Puja and Sharadiya Durga Puja is celebrated in different parts of Odisha. However each city or region has its special significance. It is also called Hara Gauri Puja- the worship of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
In Puri its called the Gosani Yatra. The idols of Goddess Durga and demon Mahisasura portray fierce combat looks,. Usually the idol of Mahisasura has a head of a Buffalo and body of a human. which is unlike the Durga idols of Cuttack. The Gosani Yatra is prevalent in Puri from the 11th Century AD and has its origin in the folk traditions of Odisha.
Cuttack started hosting the mighty goddess since 1512 . As mentioned earlier, the first community puja was organised by the Bengali and Odiya employees of East India Company in 1832 at Kazi Bazaar. The unique identity of Cuttack’s Durga Puja is the lavish Silver tableaux which showcases the cities world famous filigree work. The Choudhury Bazaar Durga Idol was the first to have silver ornaments and a silver tableaux, followed by Chandni Chowk Durga Puja which was conducted by the Royal family of erstwhile kingdom of Kanika. There are approximately 23 Goddess with silver tableaux and six with gold ornaments. Recently Bhubaneswar with its elegantly designed pandals is catching up fast.
In Western Odisha, it is called Bhai Jiunta- where the women fast the entire day of Mahastami ( eight day) for the long life of their brothers.
In the Kalahandi District it is called Chhatar Jatra- where people from Odisha and adjoining Chhattisgarh throng the revered temple of Maa Manikeswari. On the day of Mahastami, Goddess Manikeswari is taken in a procession to Jenakhal for a set of secret rituals and her return journey, the Maharaja of Kalahandi receives the Goddess, performs puja and ushers her back to the temple.
The Chandrapada Village in coastal Odisha is famous for its bullock cart race which is conducted during the Dusshera festival.
In Jeypore ( Koraput) -the villagers carry their village deity to Jeypore which was the erstwhile capital of Southern Odisha, and the procession of Vijay Dasami attracts a lot of tourists to the region.
In Balasore the festival was started by Shri. Madan Das in 1846. The family tradition is carried forward till date with great fanfare.
Whatever be the ritualistic significance, the festival witness scores of people from far and wide coming to witness the spectacle, the participation of the people for their localities Durga puja is reminiscent of the para (locality) culture of Kolkata.