Sambalpur (Odisha): Western Odisha on Tuesday celebrated the festival of `Nuakhai` with gaiety and enthusiasm to welcome the new paddy crop.
The traditional Nuakhai festival is being celebrated in Odisha since ancient era. This year the festival is being celebrated on the fifth day of Bhadraba in Odia Calender.
What Onam is to Kerala, Bihu is to Assam and Vaisakhi to Punjab, Nuakhai is to Western Odisha and is observed throughout the districts of Sambalpur, Sundergarh, Kelahandi, Bolangir, Bargarh, Subarnapur, Deogarh, Jharsuguda, Boudh of Western part of the State.
To offer the new grain to the deity, people organise the festival to welcome the new crop with family heads distributing new rice processed out of their first harvest after offering Navanna (rice) cooked with milk, sugar and other traditional food items.
Another significant part of the festival is that younger members get blessings from their elders in the house and also locality. People also exchange greetings among themselves which is called Nuakhai Bhet.
People working away from their native places generally come home to celebrate Nuakhai with family members.
Early in the morning the family head collects paddy from the field after offering milk and flowers to the crop and mother earth.
In Sambalpur presiding deity Maa Samleswari is offered Narvanna as large number of devotees attired in new Sambalpuri clothes throng the temples and Gramdevi pithas of the region.
Several community programmes are organised to mark the festival in which all sections of people take part.
Despite late monsoon affecting crops and agitation for permanent bench of Orissa High Court, people are observing the festival with fervour and camaraderie.