Nuakhai is the most important festival of western Odisha districts of Sambalpur, Balangir, Sundargarh, Kalahandi and Phulbani. Generally it takes place in the bright half of the month of Bhadrab, this year Nuakhai scheduled to be held on 18th September 2015.
Though the festival is intended for eating new rice of the year, it is observed as a general festival. Farmer offers the first grain of the harvest to the deity. Goddess Samaleswari in Sambalpur, Patneswari in Balangir, Sureshwari in Sonepur, Sekharbasini in Sundargarh and Manikeswari in Kalahandi are worshipped as presiding deities. On this occasion the new rice is cooked with milk and sugar (Kheer) and then offered as Bhog to Goddess Laxmi. Then the eldest member of the family distributes the same to other members.
Apart from the rituals of offering the new crop to the deity, the Nuakhai Juhar is a major ritual of the festival. It is about exchanging greetings with friends, relatives and well-wishers. Younger members of the family wish ‘Nuakhai Juhar’ to the elders and touch their feet. In lieu, the elders bless the young of long life, happiness and prosperity.
The people in general eagerly look forward for the festival and preparation starts before a fortnight. Most of the houses are cleaned, neatly and decorated beautifully by the house wives. On this occasion old and young, all wear new clothes. Meeting of friends and relatives, singing, dancing and merry-making are parts of the festival.
Also See – 5 Festivals only Celebrated in Odisha