Cuttack: Kartika Purnima, the full-moon day of the holy month of Kartika, was celebrated with religious fervour across the State today.
Odisha is the site of many traditional festivals. One that is unique to the state is the ceremony of Boita-Bandana (worshipping of boats) in October or November (the date is set to the Hindu calendar).
For five consecutive days before the full moon, people gather near riverbanks or the seashore and float miniature boats in remembrance of their ancestors who once sailed to faraway lands (such as Malaysia and Indonesia).
The glory of Odisha’s (erstwhile Kalinga’s) maritime heritage is commemorated by the “Boita Bandana” ritual on Kartika Purnima. “Boita Bandana” literally means sanctifying of boats. The daring ocean-faring merchants of Kalinga called “Saadhabas” used to sail the high seas in boats in order to transact trade with the merchants of Bali.
Before the merchants would embark on the long and arduous journeys, the womenfolk would gather and sanctify the sailing vessel with betel leaves and areca nuts singing “aa kaa boi ma – paana gua thoi – paana gua tora – maasaka dharama mora”.
“Aa kaa boi maa” refers to the months of post-monsoon months of Aashwina, Kartika, Baisakha, and Margasira when the voyage would take place; the first two months for the onward voyage and the last two months for the return voyage.
After the ritual, firecrackers would be lit to ward off any evil forces that may hinder the journey. The pre-dawn moments of Kartika Purnima were specially favoured for setting off as the sea of Kartika was calmer. While the merchants were away, the women would spend the days in praying for the safety of their menfolk.