The full-moon day in the month of Shravana (August) is known as Gahma Purnima or Go Purnima. In the Hindu tradition even the animals and plants, who are beneficial to the human beings are propitiated. The cow is regarded as mother. So, Gahma Purnima is a festival of the agriculturists to worship the cattle. Bullocks are the most important animals for an agriculturist in India. When ploughing the field with bullocks is over the farmers venerate them for the service they have rendered. Along with the cattle the God of agriculture Baladeva is also worshipped. The religious scriptures testify that Balarama invented the plough and showed the people all methods of agriculture. Therefore, bullock is His vehicle and the plough, His weapon. He has been also taken in as an incarnation of Vishnu. In holy scriptures. It is for this reason this festival is also known as Baladeva Puja or Baladeva Jayanti in some areas.
On this day the cattle shed is cleaned and neatly plastered and sketches of bullocks, bullock carts, ploughs and other agricultural implements are drawn on the walls. Bullocks are bathed and decorated with flowers and sandle-paste. Their horns are oiled. The rituals of worship takes place in the cattle-shed itself for which Brahmins are not needed. A piece of new cloth is placed on the back of the bullocks and they are fed with rice-cakes and pulses.
In the afternoon the bullocks are taken to a field where all the agriculturists gather. Each bullock is made to jump over an altar known as Gahma bedi and this portion of the fertival is called Gahma dian. It is said that this is reminiscent of similar festival first arranged by Baladeva Himself when He first took the bullocks to plough the land for agriculture.
Though essentially a festival of agriculturists, this festival has other religious and social ceremonies too. The other name of the festival is Rakhi Purnima or Rakshya Purnima. The religious scriptures testify that on this day Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas vested the responsibilites of safety of her sons to Lord Krishna as the Kauravas wanted to kill them. So, the festival goes on from that date and is known as Rakshya Purnima or full-moon day of protection. On this occasion the Brahmins of Orissa go from house to house and bind sacred threads on the wrist of the people invoking Gods to protect their lives. In northern India it is mostly a social festival in which sisters bind sacred threads on the wrists of their brothers to protect them from dishonour. This tradition though new to Odisha is slowly gaining ground.
Though Vaishnavism prevailed in Odisha much earlier, the cult of Krishna worship was made popular during the 15th century by Sri Chaitanya and his followers. Though temples exclusively dedicated to Krishna are few in Orissa, the representative deity of Lord Jagannath is no other than Krishna known as Madan Mohana, Ramakrishna, Gopala, Gopinatha etc.
To the Vaishnavas the festival is known as Jhulan Purnima or the Swing festival which is observed in most of the Vishnu temples and monasteries following the cult. Beginning from the Tenth day of the bright fort-night, it culminates on the Purnima day. The metal images of Radha and Krishna are placed on beautifully decorated swings and nights are spent with singing and dancing in front of the deities. As an important festival of Lord Jagannath, the celebration of the festival in the shrine and monasteries at Puri attracts visitors from far and near. The festival in the temple was first initiated by the Gajapati king Dibyasingha Dev-II (1793-1798).