India is a land of festivals and fairs. From the colorful Pushkar mela to the mystic Kumbh Mela along with innumerable local fairs and festivals, festivity seems to be the most prevalent mood for us Indians.
Diversity of the Indians plays an important part in having such different festivals and functions as these fairs and festivals define a society’s culture and ethnicity. One such festival is the long forgotten Bali Jatra that commemorates Odisha’s commercial relationships with Bali and other South Asian—a special event that the people of Odisha has preserved carefully in the form of a mammoth fair as a part of their culture.
Held along the banks of Mahanadi in Cuttack, here are certain amazing facts about the fair which every Indian would love to know about—
1. Did you ever know that an ancient and healthy trade relationship was en vogue between Eastern India and Bali, Java, Sumatra and the other South East Asian Countries?
Well, that quite clearly describes the nomenclature of Bali Jatra (Yatra).
2. As a result of this cultural exchange, Odisha shares many similarities with Balinese culture.
For example, the Sambalpuri style of weaving has its Balinese counterpart in Balinese tie-and-dye weaving techniques. Also, a sect of Balinese Brahmins calls themselves ‘Brahmin Boudha Kalinga’.
3. If Bali Jatra marks the commencing of a yearly journey to Bali, there is also a festival held in Bali that commemorates the return of the traders to Kalinga.
It is known as the Masakapam Kapeish festival.
4. Celebrated on Kartik Purnima every year, legend has it that 500 years ago, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited the Sakshi Gopal Temple in Cuttack on this very day on his way to Puri.
Since he first stepped on the sandy bank of Mahanadi, many believe the fair derived its nomenclature from this event.
5. In contemporary times, the festival is held over an area of 37 kilometers.
Of this 37 acres, 14 acres is spread around the area of Kila Maidan near Barabati Fort and the rest 23 acres lie right on the Mahanadi riverbed!
6. To retain the traditional fervor, the married women of Odisha still assemble on the river banks to float miniature boats called boitas into the river.
This earned Bali Jatra the name Boita-Bandana festival.
7. Celebrated over a period of 5 days, the Bali Jatra is undoubtedly one of the largest fairs in the eastern part of India.
So big that numerous brands have their product launches during this time at the fair!
8. It is a common saying that apart from parents, you get everything at Bali Jatra.
From cows and safety pins to high-end cosmetics, cars and electronics, you get it all here!
9. The immersion festival of Lord Kartik, marking the end of the fair, at the Gadagadia Ghat is a sight to behold.
Gigantic idols of Lord Kartik (celebrated across the city during this time) make a long procession with pomp and grandeur towards the Gadagadia Ghat for immersion.
10. If you’re at the fair, you should never miss out on the thunka puris.
G-I-G-A-N-T-I-C puris, anyone?
11. Although Cuttack’s Bali Jatra is the most famous one, there are other places where the same festival is celebrated.
The Kalinga Bali Jatra of Paradeep and the Chelitola Bali Jatra in Tirtol are the other two important counterparts of the festival.
12. How can a fair be complete without food?
With amazing brands of ice-creams giving a ‘buy one, get two’ offer, who wouldn’t want to savor them alongside the amazing street-food?