Odisha Nuakhai Celebrations To Be Low-Key Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Naukhai celebrations in Odisha will not be as usual. Restrictions for Covid-19 are in place and people are being encouraged to celebrate at home. This year Nuakhai is on August 23.

Odisha Nuakhai Celebrations To Be Low-Key Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Nuakhai Juhar sand art by Sudarshan Patnaik (2019)

Sambalpur, Odisha:

Nuakhai is one of the most ancient festivals celebrated in Odisha. On Naukhai, people worship their household deities as a mark of gratitude for bumper crops, good rain and favourable weather for farming activities. The festival, mainly observed by the agricultural community in western Odisha, will be low-key this year in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year Nuakhai is on August 23. 

There are restrictions on Nuakhai Bhetghat, a traditional social gathering organised by local people to greet each other. Keeping in mind a key guideline of maintaining social distance, people are being encouraged to celebrate at home and community puja is not allowed. Processions of more than five people are also not allowed.

According to tradition, on Nuakhai, farmers offer the first grains of the harvest to the deity and then partake it. The head of the family worships the household deity and offers rice and other food before distributing the prashad among others. members. The family members sit and eat together on the occasion, while the people who work outside also visit their homes to celebrate the festival. 

The social and cultural activities will be missing this time due to the pandemic, city-based writer Siddharth Panda said. Many people who stay away from their families will not be able to visit their homes during the festival, he said. Family get-togethers will also be missing this time.

According to folklore researcher Shyam Sundar Dhar, the Nuakhai Juhar is a major ritual of the festival apart from the practice of offering the crop to the deity. Nuakhai Juhar is extended to elders who bless younger members of the family. Apart from wishing Nuakhai Juhar to the older members within families, people also go out and wish seniors in their locality.