Hingula Yatra Festival of Odisha



Most of the festivals prevalent among the low-caste Hindus are either associated with the worship of Shakti or Shiva It is believed to have grown out of the mass religious culture of the people under the spell of Tantrism in the remote past. One such festival is Hingula Yatra or Patua Yatra. There is a popular belief among the local people that on this day of Visuba Sankranti Goddess Hingula appears and propitiation to Her removes all evil forces. She is worshipped in the village street on Her imaginary stride to the village. Offering to Her includes spitted new cloth, Pana(sweet-water), butter lamp and green mangoes.

In remote villages this festival is observed with much austerity. Those who observe fasting, especially women are called ‘Osati’. Prior to the day of worship the fasting worshippers (mostly men) move from village to village with the sacred-pitcher symbolising the Goddess. Their religious procession is always accompanied by singing and dancing. These worshippers are called Patuas. The man who dances with the holy-pitcher on his head wears a black skirt, a red blouse and a long piece of black cloth tightly covering the head and having equal length on both sides to flow. While dancing, the Patua holds the ends of the cloth and moves them artistically with stretched arms in perfect harmony to the rhythmic pattern. Sometimes he dances on the stilts and performs difficult Yogasanas balancing on the head, the staff that holds the holy-pitcher (Ghata). A big brass bell played with a cane-stick provides various peculiar rhythms. Sometimes country drums are also played.

The head of the patuas is called Bada-Patua or Katha Patua. All the Patuas observe fasting on this day. In the afternoon they assemble near a tank or river where all the rituals take place. The priest performing the rites is always a non-brahmin known as ‘Jadua’ or ‘Dehuri’. During the rituals men, women and children of the villages congregate The surrounding reverberates with auspicious ‘Hulahuli’ (a shrill sound made by wagging the tongue inside the mouth) and ‘Hari Bol’ cheers of men. Then, sharp iron hooks are pierced through the skins on the back of the Patuas. During this ceremony the morale of the Patuas are boosted through holy cheers of the onlookers and they themselves loudly continue singing in praise of Hingula or Mangala.

In some areas Jhamu Yatra is organised. Persons observing Brata or vow in honour of the deity walk on thorns and on the bed of live charcoal amidst holy cheers and loud drumming. Those who walk on fire are known as Nian Patua (Nian for fire) and those on thorns are called Kanta Patua (Kanta for thorn). Some worshippers stand on edged swords and are carried on open palanquins. They are caned Khanda Patua (Khanda for sword). Some of them show some feats in deep water. They are called Pani Patuas (Pani for water). Especially all these festivals are celebrated a Shiva or Shakti Shrine. Therefore, scholars are of opinion that these rituals, of inflicting injury to the persons by the devotees are related to the Tantra culture. By doing these they try to draw the kind attention of the God or Goddess whom they seek to propitiate.

Uda Parab:

In some areas especially in Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts of Orissa of flying festival popularly known as Uda Parab is observed. The participating devotees of this festival are called Bhokta or Bhakta. As in similar other festivals, almost all the devotees belong to the low-caste Hindus.

In a village field a long staff is fixed horizontally on a perpendicular pole. The Bhoktas, after having the ceremonial bath and other rituals in a nearby river, move dancing in a procession to this place accompanied by a cheering crowd and loud beating of drums. There a huge congregation enthusiastically awaits their arrival. Then, one by one, they are tied to the horizontal staff with a long cloth at the shoulders. Ankle-bells are fitted on their feet. Some devotees are not tied. They simply hold on the staff with one hand and move hanging. With the help of a rope fixed to the perpendicular staff they are moved roundand round by a person below. Profusely garlanded, the Bhokta flying at a height throws flowers from his garlands and green mangoes to the onlooking audience below, who collect them with great enthusiasm as precious possession. After this ceremony the Bhoktas go to the nearby temple and offer offerings and prayers to Shiva, Hingula, Mangala.