Bali Yatra or Bali Jatra literally means “Journey to Bali” ; Held on the full moon day in Karthik Purnima, Bali Yatra commemorates Orissa’s ancient maritime legacy. It is literally “journey to Bali”. The ancient traders (Sadhabas) chose the auspicious day of Kartik Purnima to set sail in their sea going boats or Boitas to distant Bali, Java, Sumatra, Borneo and Sri Lanka.
The auspicious time has a scientific basis too – the wind were favourable during this time of the year. It pushed hard on sails (Ajhala) to bear ancient Indians across Ocean to Indonesia. The trading activities of ancient Kalinga was flourishing in S.E. Asia like Indonesia, Philippines, Malayasia and Srilanka, Siam (Thailand). Besides the traders also developed a brisk overseas trade with Rome and Greece.
Others believe that Sri Chaitanya MahaPrabhu, the great Vaishnavite Saint, first landed in the soil of after crossing the sand-bed (Bali) of Mahanadi river on his way to Puri on this auspicious day. The date may have been the same but Kalinga’s Maritime tradition predates Chaitanya Dev’s journey by centuries.
In Cuttack, Bali Jatra is celebrated as an open, fair near the Barabati Fort area. Children float toy boats made of colored paper, dried banana tree barks, and cork in the Mahanadi river, ponds, and water tanks, to commemorate the voyage of their ancestors to Indonesia. The toy boats with their small oil lamps light up the autumn evenings like a second diwali. As images of Karthikeswar are immersed in Mahanadi River, to mark the end of the month of Karthik; the banks of the river in Cuttack come alive with twinkling lights and suddenly Bali Yatra takes a life of its own. People sing “Aa ka ma bai, pan gua khai…” remembering the proud maritime history of Kalinga.
Beside Cuttack Bali Yatra is celebrated with great fanfare in Paradeep, Puri and Bhubaneswar. It is also known as Boita Bandana Utsab – the “festival of boats”.
Baliyatra festival is also associated with legend ‘Taapoi’ and rituals like ‘Bhalukuni Osha’ and ‘Bada Osha’ and ‘Akasadipa’ festival which all indicates Orissa’s glorious maritime heritage. ‘Khudurukuni Osha’ is observed on each Sunday of Bhadra by un-married girls to worship Goddess Maa Mangala for the safe return journey of the family members from the voyage.
‘Bada Osha’ is linked with the boat making tradition of yore. Similarly, ‘Akasadipa’ festival is celebrated to remember the artificial light houses along the coast. The legend ‘Taapoi’ is deeply associated with Baliyatra festival which preserves memories of young maidens waiting for the return of their sailors.
To revive and refresh the memories of Kalinga’s maritime glory, a boat expedition was organized on the Kartika Purnima of 1992. History was recreated when a seven member crew on board a 13 meter long yatch sailed for Bali from Paradeep port of Orissa retracing the ancient trade route. The yatch INS SAMUDRA covered a distance of 5810 nautical miles in just over 17 weeks.
In 2010, this festival is celebrated on 21st November. Toshali Travel and Tours offers budget festival holiday packages and arranges, to be at Bali Yatra Fair, Cuttack, Orissa. And customized your accommodation on demand, get reservation at http://bit.ly/cPjbhx . Toshali Travel and Tours is authorised Travel and Tour Operator, recognised and accredited by Ministry of Tourism, Government of India
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