The quiet month of Kartika climaxes on the Deepavali night in the festival of lamps. It is the last day of the dark fortnight. This festival of lights is observed widely all over the country. In the evening all the homes are decorated and lighted with rows of earthen lamps. Varieties of crackers are also burst. Cakes and delicious dishes are prepared in every household. In all, the festival is celebrated with fire-works, illumination, feasting and gambling. The festival is also known as Kalipuja, as the Goddess is propitiated on this day. Huge images of the terrific Goddess are built and worshipped. This tradition has come to Odisha in imitation from Bengal.
Some people, especially the business community observe it as a New Year’s day and worship Goddess Lakshmi on the occasion. On this day they settle their business accounts, bury old enimity and start pursuits anew for the coming new year. Worshipping Lakshmi on the day specified for Kali is also significant. In some Puranas it has been stated that Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth was a captive in the nether world. On this day she was freed by Vishnu form the clutches of Bali. Therefore, the festival is celebrated in Her honor. Another account is available which says that this day is the reminiscence of the festival that was held by the rejoicing people of Ayodhya to celebrate the coronation of Sri Ram. Therefore, the festival is marked with mirth and merriment.
Peculiarly this festival is celebrated differently by the low-caste Hindus in the district of Mayurbhanj. They call it ‘Bandana’. The festival is observed for three days beginning from Deepavali. On this occasion they worship the cows and bullocks. On the first clay the cattle are cleanly bathed in rivers or ponds. Then at home, their horns are oiled, their feet are washed with water mixed with turmeric and marks of vermillion paste are put on the forehead. In the afternoon sturdy young bullocks decorated with patches of colours all over the body and are tethered to poles with a strong rope. A group of people singing, dancing and playing drums (Madal) followed by an enthusiastic crowd approach the bullocks one by one. One of them holds tiger-skin and frightens the bullock. When the bullock gets terrified and charges violently, he gets away to the back or side foiling all attempts made by the bullock. Thus they make all the bullocks dance one by one tethered from one end to another in the village street. The nights are spent with drinking, feasting, singing and dancing. This reminds us of the bull-fight that takes place at Madrid in Spain. Peculiarly enough in Nepal the fourth day after Deepavali is observed as Bullock’s Day in which they are fed with fodders soaked with wine. They also oil their horns and put vermillion marks on tileir fore-heads. Their bodies are also richly decorated.