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Bali Jatra (or Bali Yatra) literally means "journey to Bali". It is popularly known as Cuttack Bali Jatra. This festival is held in Odisha,in the city of Cuttack at "Gadagadia ghata" of the Mahanadi river, to mark the day when ancient Sadhabas (Odia mariners) would set sail to distant lands of Bali, as well as Java, Sumatra, Borneo (all in Indonesia), and Sri Lanka for trade and cultural expansion. They sailed in large vessels called Boitas.The festival marks its beginning at the end of the Kartik Purnima in October and November, and goes on for a period of seven days right from the full moon. This is the specific time that was considered auspicious by the Sadhabas to begin their voyage in vessels called Boitas.The scientific cause of starting voyage on "kartika purnima" is to take profit of the wind blown this time. "Ajhala" or big fabrics were used to carry "boita" or vessels by wind.
In Cuttack, Bali Jatra is celebrated annually as a large, open, fair near the Barabati Fort area. It is said to be the largest fair of Odisha state. There are several attractions for children, and food stalls selling Odia delicacies(cuttacki Dahivada aludum, Thunka puri, Barafa pan, Gupchup etc), and other vendors selling toys, curiosities, and other gifts. Every year attracts people in millions. People from all over the nation come to experience it. In Bali Yatra Children float toy boats made of colored paper, dried banana tree barks, and cork in the Mahanadi river, ponds, and water tanks, to commemorate the voyage of their ancestors to Indonesia. These toy boats, that are usually launched after sunset with small oil lamps, lit and placed inside them, provide a very attractive sight during the festival. People sing a song "Aa ka ma bai, pan gua khai..."to remember the early maritime history of Odisha (Orissa). The song tells about four months that are important for marine merchants of Kalinga(early Odisha).
This festival is also celebrated with great fanfare in Paradeep. Bali Jatra bears testimony to the rich maritime legacy of ancient Orissa. It is also known as Boita Bandana Utsab, or the "festival of boats".
Also by Saroj Swain
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