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Nuakhai – Odisha Harvest Festival Thanking Mother Earth

Nuakhai is an important social event and festival mainly observed in Western Odisha in the Odiya month of Bhadra. In 2024, the date of Nuakhai is September 8. The festival is sort of thanks giving to Mother Earth for a good Kharif season harvest. Nuakhai means partaking of the first grains of paddy.

Nuakhai is observed on the day after Sri Ganesh Chaturthi. It is the fifth day during the Shukla Paksha of the Bhadarva month (August – September).

On the day before the festival, local families send new clothes, food grains, sweets and adornments for the local village goddess. In the Devi temples around western Odisha, this ritual is called ‘Pahur’.

On Nuakhai day, Mother Nature is worshipped for providing food and all those elements essential for the survival of living beings. Goddess Shakti symbolizes Mother Earth and is worshipped in some regions and the new Kharif season crop is offered at a Shakti temple. The offering is made in leaf-cups made from Sal, Palasa, Tendu or Kurei leaves known as ‘Dana.’

Family members then consume the holy offering.

Traditional songs, dances and other cultural events are organized on the day.

Nuakhai Important Facts

Nuakhai is one of the most ancient festivals celebrated in Odisha. Its oral traditions date back to 1200 AD.

On the day of Nuakhai, the festivities begin with landowners and farmers praying to Goddess Laxmi and mother earth in their respective fields, homes and local temples.

The festival is of great importance at Samaleswari Temple in Sambalpur and other major goddess temples in the western region of Odisha, namely the Pataneswari temple in Patnagarh, the Manikeswari temple in Bhawanipatna, the Sureswari temple in Sonepur.

In the temple of Maa Samaleswari, the reigning deity of Sambalpur, the ritual of ‘Pahura’ is marked with processions of gifts and adornments sent for the goddess.

In Western Odisha, the evening of the Nuakhai festival is marked with ‘Nuakhai Bhet Ghat’, extended families meeting each other and younger family members touching the feet of elders in a greeting called ‘Nuakhai Juhar’.

Earthen pots, handloom clothes and local delicacies like Pitha, Kheeri, Puri and a wide assortment of dishes made with vegetables and pulses are the highlight of the festival.

‘Nabanna Lagi’ is the ritual where the ‘Nua Chuda’, a sweet dish made with the rice of the first harvest, milk, coconut, ghee, jaggery, honey and curd is offered first to the gods, and then is eaten by the entire family sitting together.

Pumpkin flowers, pumpkin leaves and bamboo shoot (Karadi in Odia) are enjoyed widely as a part of various traditional dishes.