Nuakhai is celebrated to welcome the new rice of the season. Nuakhai is observed on Panchami tithi (the fifth day) of the lunar fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada or Bhaadra (August–September), the day after the Ganesh Chaturthi festival.
The number of tribes that reside in Orissa is the highest anywhere in India. Different tribes have a different culture, traditions, language, and rituals. Various tribes engage in different occupations, but most are either into agriculture, fishing or hunting. Nuakhai is the agricultural festival of the people of Western Odisha. It is also celebrated in Parts of Chhatishgarh and Jharkhand. It is a rich culture of the people of Western of Orissa.
Nuakhai is a festival celebrated by Western India, mainly to welcome the harvesting of agricultural crops. ‘Nua’ means new and ‘Khai’ means food. So this is the occasion to elebrate the collection of new grains and offering to the Goddess.
Researchers suggest that the origin of this festival date back to the period of Vedas when the rishis or sages had talked of panchyajna. These include the five most important activities of an agrarian society. They are sitayajna, pravapana yajna, Prambanan yajna, khala yajna and prayayana yajna. Nuakhai is a step considered in the third phase which involves offering the harvested products to the Goddess.During the medieval age, Raja Ramai Deo was responsible for promoting this festival in the Sambalpur region. Initially, subjects used to depend on hunting and killing of animals. But he realized that this is not enough to produce food for the rest of the state. So, he went ahead and encouraged a lot of agricultural activities in his land. The ritual is based on nine colors. This festival is even celebrated at a domestic level when goddess Lakshmi is offered the harvested crop or blessings. It’s a festival of joy and abundance. This festival is celebrated across Orissa and also Jharkhand. There is the huge significance of the colors in the festival. The nine steps of the festival are- Beheren, Lagna Dekha, Daka Haka, Sapa Suthara, Ghina bika, Nua dhan khuja, Bali paka, Nua Khai and juhar bhet.
The festival is often compared to Onam or the harvesting festival of the South. India being an agricultural based country encourages various festivals and celebrated in various ways to express gratitude to the Divine God. There is a predominant significance of this festival & that is to pray for more crops to eat and export and to pray for the economy of the country to grow up to the optimum level.
It has its best celebration in Western Orissa. Nuakhai is observed to welcome the new rice of the season. It is observed a panchamitithi (the 5th day) of the lunar fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada or Bhaadara (Aug-Sep) the day after the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. It is a social festival of people in Western Orissa. Thus the study explains the ancient origin and current significance of Nuakhai as the most important agricultural festival which played a major role in promoting agriculture as a way of life. Nuakhai is now celebrated as a symbol of sambalpuri culture and heritage. Nuakhai is the occasions were tribal people dedicated their first food grain of the year to their deity to get Her blessing. The
rituals of Nuakhai are first observed at the temple of the reigning deity of the area or to the village deity. Afterward, the people worship in their respective homes and offer rituals to their domestic deity Lakshmi (the deity of the wealth) thereafter follows the Nuakhai Juhar, which is the exchange of greetings with friends, well-wishers, and relatives. This symbolizes unity. Objectives are to discuss the historical and social-cultural background of tribal festival Nuakhai in Western Orissa, to justify Nuakhai as the religious culture of people in Western Orissa, to highlight the significance of Nuakhai. The study is Descriptive in nature. It is based on interview method, observe method and Group discussion. The
findings will help the researchers to make studies & to find out the similarities and uniqueness of other communities in their food culture and socio-economic background. Nuakhai is a cohesive and unified force between people of the Western Orissa living in India as they unite and celebrate together in the occasion of Nuakhai. The modern Nuakhai festival now being observed on the fifth day of the second fortnight of Bhadrava, was unquestionably given a new look of homogeneity and uniformity by various serial organizations of western Orissa. Nuakhai is still an occasion which endorses the patrimonial nature of the Sambalpuri culture and society.
Nuakhai has believed to have nine types of rituals as symbol of nine colors. People start preparation of the festival in 15 days advance. Following are nine colors of Nuakhai.
1. Beheren : Announcement of meeting to set date of the festival
2. Lagna dekha: Calculating exact date for a part of new rice.
3. Daka haka: Invitation.
4. Sapha sutura: Purity
5. Ghina bika: purchasing.
6. Nua dhan khuja: Looking for new crops.
7. Bali paka: Offer the new crops as a Prasad to the deity.
8. Nuakhai: Eating the Prasad after offering to the deity following by singing and dancing.
9. Juhar bhet: Admiration to elders.
They sing and perform their traditional Sambalpuri dances like Rasakeli, Dalkhai, Maelajada, Sajani and more. People who are migrated to other states of India also celebrate Nuakhai with same traditional values and fascination. Nuakhai festival is a symbol of Sambalpuri culture and it reminds people of Odisha the importance of agriculture in one’s life.