Nuakhai Festival or Nuakhai or Nuankhai (also known as Nabanna observed in coastal Odisha) is an agricultural festival mainly observed by people of western Odisha in India. This festival is celebrated to welcome the new rice of the season. According to the Hindu calendar, it is observed on Panchami tithi (fifth day) of the lunar fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada or Bhadra (August–September), the day after the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. This is the most important social festival of Western Odisha.
Nuakhai Festival Date
Nuakhai date is on 20 September 2023 Wednesday in Odisha
Nuakhai is a combination of two words, the word nua means new, and khai means food, so the festival is to celebrate the newly harvested rice by the farmers. It is also known as Nuakhai Parab or Nuakahi Bhetghat and is seen as a new ray of hope, held the day after the Ganesha Chaturthi festival. It has a big significance for farmers and the agricultural community. The festival is celebrated at a particular time of day which is called lagan. Arisa pitha is prepared to celebrate this festival. When the lagan comes, the people first remember their village god or goddess and then have their nua.
Nuakhai is the agricultural festival of both the tribal people as well as the caste-Hindus. The festival is observed throughout Odisha, but it is particularly important in the life and culture of the tribal-dominated area of western Odisha. It is a festival for the worship of food grain and is mostly celebrated in the Kalahandi, Sambalpur, Balangir, Bargarh, Sundargarh, Jharsuguda, Sonepur, Boudh, and Nuapada districts of Odisha.
Nuakhai Festival History
Although the festival’s origins have been lost over time, the oral history dates back to the 12th century AD, when the first Chauhan King Ramai Deo founded the princely kingdom of Patna, which is now part of Western Orissa’s Balangir district.
Raja Ramai Deo recognized the need for settled agriculture in his quest to establish an independent kingdom because the local people’s subsistence economy was mainly centered on hunting and food collecting. He concluded that this economy could not generate the surpluses needed to keep a state afloat.
During state formation in the Sambalpuri region, Nuakhai as a ritual festival played a major role in promoting agriculture as a way of life. Thus credit can be given to Raja Ramai Deo for making Nuakhai a symbol of Sambalpuri culture and heritage.
There was no fixed day for the festival’s celebration in the early years. It took place during Bhadraba Sukla Pakhya. It was when the newly grown Kharif crop of rice started ripening. There are reasons for observing the festival in the month of Bhadrava even though the food grain is not ready for harvesting. The thought is to present the grain to the presiding deity before any bird or animal pecks at it and is ready for eating.
Nuakhai Festival Significance
The Nuakhai festival teaches the current generation about the importance of agriculture and farmers’ role in the country’s development.
Nuakhai Festival Rituals
People in Western Odisha start preparations for the festival 15 days in advance. Nuakhai is understood to have nine colors and as a consequence, nine sets of rituals are followed as a prelude to the actual day of celebration. These nine colors include:
- Beheren – announcement of a meeting to set the date
- Lagna dekha (setting the exact date for partaking of new rice)
- Daka haka (invitation)
- Sapha sutura and lipa puchha (cleanliness)
- Ghina bika (purchasing)
- Nua dhan khuja (looking for the new crop)
- Bali paka (final resolve for Nuakhai by taking the Prasad (the offering) to the deity)
- Nuakhai (eating the new crop as Prasad after offering it to the deity, followed by dancing and singing)
- Juhar bhet (respect to elders)
On this occasion, folk song and dance events are organized to display the local culture and traditions of the society.