Khudurukuni Osa – On the Sundays of the month of Bhadrab (Aug-Sept) this festival is observed by the unmarried girls of the business community of the coastal districts of Odisha. During the festival Goddess Durga is propitiated Khude Bhaja (Left out particles of rice that are fried), Kantiali Kakudi (Cucumber having little thorns on it), Lia (fried paddy), Ukhuda(fried paddy sweetened by molasses) and coconut are the food-offerings given to the deity. However, the principal food-offering is Khuda which is said to be the favourite of the Goddess. Therefore, the festival is named as “Khudarankuni” or popularly ‘Khudurkuni’ which means one who is very eager for khuda.
In the early morning the girls go out collecting flowers required for the ritual. The varieties are Kaniara, Godibana, Tagara, Malati, Champa, Mandera and Kain. Then they go to nearby rivers and tanks to have purificatory bath. After this they build tiny temples of earth or sand and decorate the same with flowers. Paying obeisence to the deity there, they return to their respective homes. They take two and half mouthfuls of boiled rice mixed with water without adding salt. Then salt is added. The significance of this act is not known. After this the, whole day is spent in making garlands and decorating the image of the Goddess.
In villages generally the deity is worshipped in the Dhinkisala or the place where caddy is pounced. This place is plastered neatly with cow-dung and the image of the deity is installed. The floor is painted with floral despins known as Jhoti or Alpana. Garlands are made to hang like arches. The whole day passes with the arrangement and the rituals of worship commence in the evening.
After the ritual, are over the girls recite musically the episode of Taapoi which is now available in print. Eariler this was handed down by oral tradition. The first episode ‘Malasri’ recounts the killing of the demon by Durga. It is said, that Mahisasura, the terrible demon became atrocious by getting a boon from Brahma, the creator. Not only the mankind, but also the Gods got panicky. He became so powerful that even Gods couldn’t kill him. Then all the Gods conferred and went to request the Goddess of power to kill the demon. Durga agreed and assuming the form of a beautiful damsel went to Vindhya mountain to pretend penancing. Mahisasura, while out on hunting, noticed the beautiful damsel and immediately offered to marry her. The damsel answered that she would only marry that person who would defeat her in duel. Mahisasura being confident of his power soon agreed to the proposal. A fierce ‘duel’ ensued between them; with all her enargy the damsel thrusted a trident violently to the chest of the demon who was killed. Thus, Durga redeemed the world from the fear and atrocity of the demon. It is, therefore, believed that the girls worship Durga to be powerful like Her, to fight evil forces for the goodof the human race.
The second episode ‘Taapoi’, is a legendary account of the sufferings and success of a Sadhab (Sea trader) girl. lt also reminds us of the maritime glory of ancient Orissa, when there was sea-borne trade with south-east islands of Java, Bali, Sumatra etc. The Sadhabas of Orissa were a prosperous community who had trade-links with many countries.
According to this tale, there were seven brothers in a prosperous Sadhaba family. Taapoi was their only sister who was also the youngest. Obviously they bestowed their love and affection on her lavishly. Whatever she wished immediately her demands were fulfilled. One day the little girl was playing with her friends with a winnow, made out of bamboo strips. A Brahmin widow of wicked nature scoffed at this. Being hurt the girl demanded a golden winnow to play and it was given. Again she demanded a moon of Gold. When it was half done her father died. When it was completed her mother died. By that time the family also became poor. The seven brothers then set out on their voyage to distant lands for trading and while leaving left clear instructions to their respective wives to take special care of their lovely sister.
Soon after the brothers left the seven wives fell on the bad counsel of the Brahmin widow who impressed upon them that the cause of their poverty is the girl for whom they were so lavish. Soon they changed their attitude. She was not given good food or clothes. She was made to live on khuda (left out rice particles) and was engaged to watch goats in the jungle. Inspite of unbearable torture she waited patiently for her brothers to return. The youngest sister-in-law was kind to her, but couldn’t come to her rescue because of the six others.
Amidst all sufferings Taapoi held her morale high. All the while she was praying Durga (Mangala) for the safe return of her brothers. She worshipped the Goddess along with other girls and offered khuda as she had nothing else. Her sincere and devotional prayer yielded fruit and her brothers returned safely. They landed on the shore at night and while resting on the vessel they heard the wailing sound of a girl. Being curious as to who was crying they searched the area and found to their utter dismay, that she was none else than their dear sister. As the pet goat ‘Gharamani’ was missing, she was driven out by the in-laws and without being able to find the goat she was helplessly crying. Seeing her brothers, her joys knew no bounds. The brothers heard all about her plight at the hands of their wives. To punish them they asked their sister to cut their noses. But, their noses were restored when she again prayed the Goddess. Then all of them went happily home.
These two episodes set two ideals before the girls who observe the festival. One is to be courageous like Durga to fight evil forces and the other to be like Taapoi to bear all sufferings patiently to come out successful in life.
The idols of Durga are then immersed in rivers and tanks and this marks the closing of the festival.