Cuttack, November 8: It’s that time of the year again, when the city reverberates to the familiar tunes of “Aa ka ma bai, pan guakhai…” to remember and honour the glorious maritime legacy of Odisha, Kalinga of yesteryears. And, the Killa Padia (Maidan) in front of the legendary Barabati Fort and the adjoining sprawling Mahanadi riverbed has been decked up to host the largest open fair in the state.
Baliyatra which marks the culmination of all religious festivities held in the month of Kartika, offers a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the state which dates back to more than 1000 years.
Baliyatra means “Journey to Bali”. The traders of Odisha (sadhabapuas) undertook voyages, along the sea trade route, on huge boats called Boitas from the banks of river Mahanadi on the full moon day in the month of Kartika. Thus, Kartika Poornima is an auspicious day for the people of Odisha, as the sailors used to start their voyage to places like Bali, Java, Borneo, Sumatra in Indonesia and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) for a successful trade on this day. The ancient ritual of ‘Boita Bandana’ (boat worshipping) is carried out by Odia women by launching a paper boat or a boat made of banana peels with a clay diya placed inside it.
Baliyatra this year boasts of 1432 stalls, out of which 942 stalls fall under the tehsil and 380 have fallen in the kitty of the Odisha Rural Development and Marketing Society (ORMAS) which has left no stone unturned to make this year’s festival a grand success.
- A visit to Baliyatra won’t be complete without a mouthful of the sumptuous thunkapuri. This large-sized, deep-fried puri is served with chhena tarkari and phulkobi bhaja and has been a staple Baliyatra delicacy for decades.
- Kendrapara’s famous rasabali, Dhenkanal’s biri-bara, Cuttack’s dahibara and Baripada’s mudhi mutton retain their place in the mega fair this year.
- The barafa paan or iced paan will adorn the lanes of the fair this year as well. Satiate your palate by chewing on this unique delicacy from the bylanes of Cuttack.
- Amusement rides catering to all sections of the society have always been the cynosure of attraction for Baliyatra lovers and this year isn’t any different.
- Baliyatra has always been a boon for those who want to decorate their houses with modern as well as antique items. “We find many products here that are usually not available in the market at other times. Most importantly, they are reasonably-priced,” says Lalita Sahoo, a homemaker.
What To Look Out For This Year:
- One of the major crowd pullers this year would be stalls managed by transgenders. While this section of the society is still fighting for equal rights, the Baliyatra administration has allotted six stalls for them. The stalls will stack handmade goods such as agarbattis, mixture, shell items and perfume. Alongside, the Cuttack KinnarMahasangh has confirmed that the BaishnabPaniManch will see some of their community members perform folk dance as well.
- While giant wheels feature every year in the mela, this year has seen the advent of a different kind of ride that promises a thrilling experience to its patrons. Aptly named Ranger Jhula, this ride has been popular in Maharashtra and Jharkhand before making its grand entry into the Baliyatra market.
- Beauty all the way from the North East has graced the grand Mela of Baliyatra this year. Doll-making is emerging as a major source of employment for women in Tripura. This year, these women have come all the way to Cuttack to attend the fair for the first time and have brought beautiful dolls of various kinds with them. Unlike other fabric and plastic-made dolls, the striking feature of these dolls happens to be medicated cotton, which is totally safe for children.
With time, Bali Yatra has changed a lot but the spirit of celebrating this event has remained the same. It brings new hopes for small traders of the region who get a platform to showcase their talent. The festival also brings back pleasant memories of Odisha’s rich past and casts a magical spell on the minds of onlookers. Bali yatra might be a fair for some, but it will always be an emotion, a feeling for the people of Odisha.
Special Inputs: Prinkil Priyadarsi Parida & SNP Guddu