Dola Purnima is one of the most popular festivals in Orissa. It coincides with the Holi festival but is celebrated for six days. It begins six days – on Falgun dasami day – before Poornima (full moon) in the month of Falgun (February – March). In 2016, Dola Purnima is on March 23.
Worshipping of Radha and
Krishna in the swing festival is the main event during the six-day long festival. The festival is also known as Dola Yatra or Dola Jatra.
From the Falgun Dasami day, the idol of village deities, especially that of
Krishna, are carried to all the homes in the villages. People carrying the idols and those following it are semared with Abira, a violet color powder. The idols are carried on a decorated palanquin, known as Vimana, and the procession is accompanied by singers and musicians. In each house the deity is offered Bhog – sweets made from the recent harvest and fruits. In return, the deity distributes different powdered colors for the Holi festival.
This daily round of deity continues for four days and is known as chacheery. The four-day long procession culminates in a swing festival of Radha and
Krishna. Idols from various villages assemble at a common place where swings are fixed. Then, the deities are swung to the accompaniment of devotional music. This is known as the Dolatsaba festival.
There is also a keen competition among villages in decorating the Vimanas in which the deity is carried around.
The swing festival is a major event associated with Lord Vishnu especially Sri Krishna. It is mentioned in the Puranas that one who witnesses the swing festival of Sri Krishna is cleansed of all sins.
On the Dola Purnima day, there is the burning of demon Holika, which is known as Holipoda. There is another myth also associated the Holi bonfire in Orissa and it is killing of demon Mesha. It is believed that Mesha, who was a terror on earth and heaven, was killed and burned to ashes by
Krishna. This is known as Meshapodi or Mendhapodi.
Playing of Holi takes place on the next day and is primarily celebrated as the victory of good over evil.
The village temple idols return on the day and natural colors are sprayed on the deities. The entire routes through which the procession moves are smeared with natural colors. People believe that these natural colors have medicinal properties.
In some places, the new Oriya Panchang or almanac is read after the swing festival.
In some regions, the festival comes to an end only on the tenth day and this is known as Dasa Dola.