Maha Vishuba Sankranti

Maha Vishuba Sankranti, also known as Mesha Sankranthi and Pana Sankranti, is observed as the Oriya New Year. It is on this day that Sun enters the sign Libra. The Odia community celebrates New year on the occasion.The day marks the beginning of the New Year in the traditional Oriya Solar Calendar. The summer season also commences from this period. In 2012, the date of Maha Vishuba Sankranti is April 14. The Sankranti time is 9:10 PM on April 13, 2012

Maha Vishuba Sankranti is noted for subdued celebrations. The highlight of the day is the preparation of sweet drink called ‘Pana,’ which is made from fruits, milk, curd etc. Cultural programs are organized in some regions including literary meetings.

People visit various temples and offer prayers and special pujas. Maha Vishuba Sankranti also marks the end of temple festivals in some regions of Orissa.

An interesting story of Maha Vishuba Sankranti is associated with Bhishma in the Mahabharata and Jala Visuva Sankranti is the first day of the Baisakh month and is observed as New Year in Orissa. The ritual is also popularly known as Mahavishuba Sankrantiand Pana Sankranti and is on April 14, 2011. The story of Jala Sankranti is associated with Bhishma of the Mahabharata and is mentioned in the Bhavishya Purana.

‘Bhishma after being defeated by Arjuna in the Mahabharata war was lying on a bed of arrows (Shara Sajya). Pandavas and Kauravas had assembled near him and he asked for some water. Arjun then aimed an arrow in the ground and from the crevice created by the arrow appeared Holy River Ganga to thirst the quench of Bhishma.

Out of contentment and compassion Bhishma said that those people who would offer cold water to thirsty people on this day would not only be free from all sins, but also the departed souls of their ancestors as well as the Gods in heaven would be pleased.

In remembrance of this day people in Orissa distribute water and a popular drink called Pana.

The festive mood starts one month before during the Chaitra month as per the Hindu calendar. People in villages organise folk dances and spend whole night to make the auspicious day divine as per their belief.

In some parts of the state, Danda Yatra and Jhamu Yatra are organised for one month in many Devi temples. The period is known as sacred and during the period mother power impacts more. Panna Sankranti is also celebrated at Maa Hingula in Talcher, Maa Tarini in Keonjhar, Maa Manikeswari in Kalahandi, Maa Mangala in Kakatpur and Bhairavi in Berhampur.

The participants in a Danda Nata invoke the blessings of Lord Shiva to get blessed by achild, to fulfil certain ambition, to get rid of sickness, seeking happiness in life, goodharvest or even peace and happiness to all the communities. Coincidentally, the totalnumber of pledge takers in Danda Nata is 13 and the number of days for the festival isalso 13. These vow takers are known as the `Bhoktas`. All the `Bhoktas` lead a very pious life for 21 days of this festival and they avoid eating meat, fish or cohabiting duringthis period.Kamana Ghata carries an importance in Danda Nata. Ghata is the Pitcher, which is full of water, and it holds a very important place in the performance, since it represents the bodyand the water in it represents life. It represents the God invoked and hence worshippedwith strong belief. After the function, the pitcher is again brought to the water of a pondor river with due care and immersed from where it had been brought.A new pitcher is then taken to the pond or a river and water is filled in it, while the musicis played with the accompaniment of drums and blowing of conch shell. This pitcher isfirst worshipped under a banyan tree and then taken out in a procession through thevillage and then kept in a hut (made preferably in front of a Shiva`s temple), known asthe Kamana Ghara. Two pieces of cane-sticks represents `Hara` & `Gouri` and they arekept near the Ghata and are worshipped with the pitcher. A sacred fire is also kept lightedin the hut from which Pata-Bhokta lights up an oil lamp. As they light up the lamp theBhoktas yell with the word “Rushi Putre”. Then resin and myrrh powder is thrown on thelighted oil lamp, which turns a burning up with a flare and the `Bhoktas` yell the words”Kala Rudramani Ho Joy”.The entire group of Danda Nata consisting of the `Bhoktas` and their colleagues go invarious villages in a procession with the band of musicians. There is no specificdeclaration about where they are going to perform “Danda” in a day. Like the `Bhoktas`,some common men also keep a vow in their mind for getting some mercy from LordShiva. Seeing the procession, these vow takers clean up their houses with the help of cow-dung, water, put floor designs with coloured powders and keep a jug full of water.

During Jhamu Ytara, people observing ‘Brata’ walk on thorns and fire. Those who walk on fire are known as ‘Nian Patua’ and those on thorns are called ‘Kanta Patuas’. Some devotees stand on the edge of swords and they are called ‘Khanda Patuas’. Some show their extra-ordinary skills in deep water and they are called ‘Pani Patuas’. These rituals are related to Tantra culture and done seeking the benevolence of divine Goddess Shakti.

The Sankranti is also the New Year (Chitirai Vishu or Puthandu or Varsha Pirapu) for Tamil, (Poila Baisakh) for Bengali and (Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu) for Assamese.

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