Samba Dasami is a unique ritual observed in the 10th day of Paush month in Odisha as per traditional Oriya calendar. On the day mothers observe special puja and rituals dedicated to Lord Surya for the good health and long life of their children.
There is a legend attached to the festival which tells about how and when the festival came to be observed. It also finds mention in the Samba Purana. Samba was the most handsome son of Krishna who was also very proud. He never paid any respect to his elders and mostly spent his life in licentious habits. Once he came across Narada, who is revered by all Gods and Goddesses. But Samba didn’t pay any respect to him. Instead he played tricks. This enraged the sage.
In order to take revenge of this insult Narada made a false allegation against him before his father Lord Krishna that he had seen him in love-play with Gopis who are to be respected like mothers. Enraged with this Krishna cursed him to be afflicted with leprosy. As a result Samba got afflicted with leprosy and lost his handsome features which were his pride. Narada never believed that the curse would be so severe. He repented and then advised Samba to go to the Maitreya Bana to sit in penance to receive the blessings of the Sun God who would only cure him from this dreadful disease. Samba sat in penance for long twelve years. Being pleased with his devotion the Sun God cured him of the disease. The day Samba was freed from the disease is known as Samba Dasami. The day is observed as a festival to propitiate the Sun God as the best healer of diseases.
Maitreya Bana is identified with the present site of Konarak where Samba spent the rest of his life worshiping the Sun God. Later, considering the religious importance of the place Langula Narasingha Deva, the mighty Ganga ruler of Odisha built the famous shrine of Sun God at Konarka in 13th century A.D.
This is another variant of the legend about Shambara Dasami. It says that once Narada came to Dwarka. There he found Rukmini the spouse of Krishna to be morose and tearful. On enquiry Rukmini disclosed that she gave birth to a child as beautiful as Madana, the Cupid, but he was abducted by a demon and since then there is no end to her plight. Then Narada consoled and advised her to pray Sun God to get back her child. To arouse belief and strength in her, he narrated another story about the efficacy of such prayer. This tale has it that there was a Brahmin in Arka Kshetra (Konarak) named Goutama. He had three beautiful sons by his wife Padmamukhi.
To his ill luck all of them died one by one. His grief-stricken wife attempted to commit suicide. The Brahmin forbade her and then persuaded her to pray Sun God. She sat in deep penance praying the God. Being moved by her devotion and, prayer the Sun God fulfilled her desire and she was again blessed with children. Narrating the story Narada advised Rukmini to worship the Sun God accordingly. She followed his advise and prayed the God with utmost devotion. In the mean time, the lost child Pradyumna killed the demon Sambarasura who abducted him and came down to his parents in a Veemana (aeroplane). Both Krishna and Rukmini became overjoyed getting back their son. According to this version, as the demon Sambarasura was killed on this day, the festival is known as Sambara Dasami.
This festival is mostly observed by the elderly women who propitiate the Sun God to keep their children free from all diseases. Those who are childless also pray for children.
On this day, the Sun God is invoked thrice. Once in the morning, then at mid-day and lastly in the evening, before the sun sets.