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"Saraswati Puja (Basant Panchami)" to be celebrated by Lucknow Oriya Samaj on 22nd January, 2018

 
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My Tryst with Orissa and Its Culture

Once known as Utkal, Orissa is a land of excellence in art, a treasure trove of exquisite handicraft and traditional art forms, a rich legacy of an ancient culture. Evolved slowly and gradually through efforts of generations, Orissan culture has retained seasoned traditional values along with the freshness and charm of their own. With the beauty and excellence in its various forms, my brush with culture of Orissa, happened during various trips to attend conferences and meetings. Legends lace Orissa. Temples dot her landscape. On her street Gods walk among men. Famous for the beauty and craftsmanship of Konark, Jagannath, Lingaraj and innumerable other temples, Orissa is a striking selection of decorative and utilitarian arts and crafts.

Rath Yatra

My first glimpse of the grand festival of Orissa, Ratha Yatra or the Chariot Festival at Puri is still vivid in my mind with all its religious grandeur at Puri, the seashore town in Orissa. The presiding deities Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra, with the celestial wheel Sudarshana being taken out from the temple in an elaborate ritual procession, called Pahandi and seated on three colorfully decorated huge chariots, which are then drawn by hundreds and thousands of devotees on the bada danda, the grand road to the Gundicha temple, some three kilometers away to the North. For the devoted and believers, it is considered the most auspicious occasion. Rathe tu vamanam drishtwa punarjanmam na vidyate. (A glimpse of the Vamana, the dwarf form, an incarnation of Lord Jagannatha, is sure to ensure emancipation, release from the cycle of birth and death). A glimpse of Lord Jagannatha on the chariot is considered to be very auspicious and saints, poets and scriptures have repeatedly glorified the sanctity of this special festival. Even a touch of the chariot or even the ropes with which these are pulled is enough to confer the results of several pious deeds or penance for ages.

Overview of Culture of Orissa

Orissa has a chequered history of successive rules of different dynasties and assimilation and synthesization of the best of Buddhist, Jain and Hindu cultures and also Mahima Cult. The very stones speak of the unique history of the nation. The sacred environs of Puri Jagannath temple, the beauty of Konark's Sun temple, the wondrous Jain monuments of caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri, the mystical monasteries of Buddhism, the paintings and folklore of the handloom weaver's magic speak eloquently of a living past a continuing present as a gift for the prospective future.

The word Oriya is an anglicized version of Odia which itself is a modern name for the Odra or Udra tribes that once inhabited the central belt of moderen Orissa. Orissa has also been the home of the erstwhile Kalinga and Utkal tribes that played a particularly prominent role in shaping the region's history and culture, and one of the earliest references to the same appears in the writings of Vedic chronicles. Fascinating cultural roots of glorious Orissa is aptly represented by the famous Sun Temple at Konark and the revered Jagannath Temple at Puri. The 'culture of Kalinga' home to sixty-two tribes, has long been a favourite, not just among tourists, but also among the academicians.

A major turning point in World History took place in Orissa. The famous Kalinga was that made Emperor Ashoka give up war to embrace Buddhism, was fought in Orissa in 261 B.C. After the war Ashoka championed the cause of Buddhism and played a major role in taking the religion to distant shores allacross the world.

The heart of Orissa – 'ODISA' – 'ODRA – DESHA' – culture is embodied in two poet saints i.e. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Jayadeva. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu epitomized the bhakti and surrender to Lord Jagannath while Jayadeva authored the Gita Govinda, the Love song of the Dark Lord – a treatise of surrender and love of the Lord for Radha. Both speak to spread the ripple of love to the infinite existence of the consciousness of Lord Krishna. Orissa culture has the universal principle of philosophy of colour of universal love; a rhythmic expression of the Lord Jagannath with its unique cosmic rhythms and sweet sonic vibrations.

The island of Orissa culture existing in Lucknow and Uttar Pradesh gives us an opportunity to experience the glory of its uniqueness with limitless expression of its message of boundless and universal love.

Prof. R. K. Sharma
Director, SGPGIMS, Lucknow