Durga Puja in Orissa

Durga Puja in Orissa

Durga Puja is an Indian festival. This article describes its celebration in the state of Orissa.

The cult of Shakti worship in Orissa is very prevalent, both in the Tantric and non-Tantric forms, as can be realized from the festivals Vasanti Durga Puja or Chaitra Durga Puja in the Oriya month of Chaitra (March or April),Sharadiyo Durga Puja in the Oriya month of Aswina(September–October) and Kalipuja (October–November) which are celebrated with utmost solemnity, gaiety and éclat. The great Mother as the ten-handed Durga is believed to come down from her husbands home on Mount Kailash to her parents' abode on the Himalayas every year for three days, the 7th, 8th and 9th days of the bright fortnight in the month of Aswina. In Orissa richly decorated and beautifully made images are installed in people's houses and the festival instils a spirit of holiness and sancity into the whole community so much so that people of other faiths participate in it with abundant warmth and sincerity. In Orissa the special feature of Durga Puja is that in the temples it spreads over sixteen days known as Shodasa Upachara unlike in other parts of the country where it lasts for three to nine days at most.

The autumnal or Sharadiya ceremony is known as various names in Orissa i.e. Dussehra, Durgapuja,Akal Bodhan, Shodasa Upachara, Durgostava, Sharadiyo Utasava etc.

Durga pujan in Bhubaneswar
Durga pujan in Cuttack,Meria bazar


History of Durga Puja in Orissa

Various accounts exist which describe the origin of Durga Puja in the state of Orissa. Some historical accounts agree on the influence from other regions although some mythological accounts describe an independent origin.

Durga Puja is a festival, which is observed for 10 days. The Durga Puja is celebrated in two different ways in Orissa. In Shakti peethas (temples of goddess) the Durga Puja is observed with proper rituals for 16 days,starting from Krishnapaksha Ashtami to Shukla paksha Navami of Hindu Oriya Calender known as Shodasa dinatmak Upachara. Goddess Durga is also worshiped by devotees in different pendals in form deities across the state. The pendals are usually decorated beautifully.

According to Markandeya Purana the King of Chedi dynasty Suratha started rituals of Durga Puja during 300B.C. The Chedi dynasty belongs to Kalinga(modern Orissa). Durga Puia has different names in different Puranas and Sastras. In Devi Purana & Kalika Purana it is named as Vijaya Dashami. It is named as Mahaparbana in Devi Mahatmya and Duseehera in Markandeya Purana.

The present form of worship of Durga with earthen idol in Orissa was started during the reign of Ganga King Chodaganga Dev in the 11th century at Puri. The earthen idol of Mahishamardini Durga is known as Gosani and the Dussehra fesival is known as Gosani Yatra. It is noteworthy that the co-worship of Mahisamardini Durga with Madhava (Lord Jagannath) is prevalent from 11th century, Ganga period, in Puri.

It is said that in the year 1512 to 1517 Chaitanya Deva had come to Cuttack, the capital of Gajapati empire of Orissa and the then emperor Gajapati Pratap Rudra Dev received him at Gadagadia Ghata situated near the river bank of Mahanadi very close to the kings Palace popularly known as Barabati Fort. In that year Sri Chaitanya Deva started Durga puja at Binod Bihari temple presently known as Balu Bazar.

The earliest known Durga Puja being conducted at the same venue anywhere is in Orissa, which is about 400 years old. This started after the Ghosh Mahashaya family migrated from Kotarang near Howrah to settle down at Rameswarpur in Bhadrak district of the state. They came along with Todarmal during his famed survey of India and brought the tradition of Sharadiya Durga Puja to Orissa.

Durga Puja Rituals

The festival of Durga Puja starts with Mahalaya, the first phase of the waxing moon in Aswin. Thousands offer prayers to their ancestors at the city's river banks or secred ponds, a ritual called Tarpana. The inauguration of the Goddess idol starts on Mahashasthi. The main puja is for three days - Mahasaptami, Mahaastami, Mahanavami. The puja rituals are long and very detailed and complicated. Three days of Mantras and Shlokas and Arati and offerings - needs an expert priest to do this kind of Puja. Because of this, the number of Pujas privately conducted by families has reduced and Durga Puja has emerged as a community festival.


On this day Goddess Durga arrives to the mortal world from her heavenly abode, accompanied by her children. She is welcomed with much fanfare amidst the beats of traditional drums. Unveiling the face of the idol is the main ritual on this day. Bel Baran or Kalaparambho, the ritual performed before the commencement of the puja precedes Chakhyu daan, Amontron and Adibas.


Saptami is the first day of Durga puja. The tiny banana plant or Nabapatrika is given a pre-dawn bath. This is an ancient ritual of worshiping nine types of plants. They are together worshiped as a symbol of the goddess. The main Saptami Puja follows Kalparambho and Mahasnan.


The day began with a recital of Sanskrit hymns in community puja pandals as thousands of devotees offered anjali to the goddess. Kumari Puja or the worship of little girls as the child goddess was a special part of the rituals observed in a number of traditional and household pujas. As the day wore on, it was time for the important Sandhi Puja, which marks the inter-linking of the Maha Ashtami and Maha Navami. In recent times Boiti-Kakharu (Pumpkin) sacrifice replaced animal sacrifice in various parts of the state. The Oriya women of western Orissa and adjoining Chattisgarh celebrate Bhaijiutia on the Mahastami Day of Durga Puja. It is a total fasting undertaken by women for the whole day and night to seek Goddess Durga's blessing for the long life of their bhais (brothers).


This is the concluding day of Durga Puja. The main Navami puja begins after the end of Sandhi Puja. The Navami Bhog is offered to the goddess. This is later par taken as prasad by the devotees.In the day of Navami the Oriya households organise Navami Bhoji(Navami feast) and invite friends,relatives.In this day they prepare typical Oriya delicasies (both Veg and non-veg items).

Vijaya Dashami or Dussehra

After the three days of Puja, in Dashami, in the last day, after the last ritual Aparajita Puja is offered to Goddess, a tearful farewell is offered to the her. The women offer Dahi-Pakhal(cooked rice soaked in water and curd), Pitha(baked cake), Mitha(sweets) and Fish fry to goddess. Most of the community pujas postpone the farewell as long as possible and arrange a grand send-off. The images are carried in processions known as Bhasani Jatra or Bisarjan Jatra around the locality and finally are immersed in a nearby river or lake. Vijoya Dashami is an event celebrated all over the country. After the immersion of the idol people across the state celebrate "Ravan Podi"(burn the huge idol of demon Ravana)

Famous Shakti Shrines of Orissa

  • Adi Shakti Tara Tarini Hill Shrine (Stana Peetha)- Berhampur, Ganjam
  • Goddess Bhairabi Temple, Near Berhampur, Ganjam
  • Goddess Biraja/Viraja-Jajpur,
  • Goddess Budhi Samlei-Dalai Para of Sambalpur town and Sonepur
  • Goddess Bhagavati-Sonepur
  • Goddess Ramei Devi-Patnagarh
  • Goddess Patkhanda-Jarasingha and Patnagarh of Bolangir district
  • Goddess Mangala-Kakatpur,
  • Goddess Sarala/Sharada-Jhankad,
  • Goddess Vimala-Puri,
  • Goddess Mahamayee (Budhi Thakurani)-Berhampur
  • Goddess Gouri-Bhubaneswar,
  • Goddess Ramachandi-Konark,
  • Goddess Cuttack Chandi-Cuttack,
  • Goddess Charchika-Banki,
  • Goddess Kali/Kalijai-Kalijai Island,Chilika lake,
  • Goddess Bhagawati-Banpur,
  • Goddess Taratarini-Purnagiri of Ganjam,
  • Goddess Barala Devi-Kandhmal,
  • Goddess Manikeswari-Bhawanipatna and Sonepur
  • Goddess Pataneswari-Patnagarh, Bolangir and Sambalpur
  • Goddess Samaleswari-Sambalpur, Sonepur and Bolangir
  • Goddess Sureswari-Subarnapur,
  • Goddess Hingulai-Talcher,
  • Goddess Tarini-Keonjar,
  • Goddess Kichakeshwari-Khiching,
  • Goddess Ambika-Baripada,
  • Goddess Bhadrakali-Bhadrak,
  • Goddess Lankeswari-Junagarh and Sonepur
  • Goddess Ramachandi-4 miles from Konark
  • Goddess Bag Devi/Byaghra Devi-Kulada
  • Goddess Stambeswari/Khambeswari- Sonepur and Aska
  • Goddess Hingula-Gopal Prasad village of Talcher
  • Goddess Narayani-near Khallikote
  • Goddess Chandi-Chandital of Boudh district
  • Goddess Bali Harachandi -27 km from Puri
  • Goddess Majhighariani-Rayagada
  • Goddess Ramachandi-Gadamanitri - 5 km from Ganjam
  • Goddess Tara-Bhusandapur - 50 km from Bhubaneswar
  • Goddess Kandhen Budhi-Kantamal in Boudh district.
  • Goddess Bhairavi-Mantridi - 15 km from Berhampur
  • Goddess Bhattarika-Sasanga village of Badamba in Cuttack district
  • Goddess Barunei - 2 km from Khurda
  • Goddess Maninaga-Ranapur
  • Goddess Kalijai-Chilika
  • Goddess Kanta Devi-Sanjal village of Bonai
  • Goddess Gouri-Bhubaneswar
  • Goddess Bhairabi-Puruna katak in Boudh district.

Local traditions related to Sharodiya Durga Puja/Dussehra

Ram Leela

Dussera celebrates the homecoming of Rama the hero of the epic Ramayana, after his victory over Ravana, the king of Lanka. In vast open spaces, Ramleela, the folk play with music and spontaneous dialogues, retelling the story of the life of Rama, are enacted till the wee hours. Songs are sung in praise of Rama and people in thousands witness this traditional theatre with its exaggerated costumes, jewellery, makeup and drama.

Ravan Podi

Larger than life figures of Ravana and other demons are burnt on cold dark nights with fireworks lighting up the sky known as Ravan Podi on the day of Vijaya Dasami. Ravan Podi was started in late 1980s from Sahid Nagar Durga Puja Committee where after as on date there are more than 30 ravana podi is organised by different puja pendals in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.

Sword fighting and other martial arts

In the traditional villages in the state of Orissa has their own way of celebrating the Dussera. Traditional sword fighting tournaments were organised by the village associations (Akharas) mostly from the Khandayats, Banayats and Paikas, the warrior class (Kshetriyas). One of the oldest tradition in the Orissa’s Village Kusupur is being kept alive for last more than hundred years by Kusupur Dussera Sabha, which has the history of its uniqueness in itself. To watch the live sword and fire fighting watch the video : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ts8Sr1uHOI

Worship of Sword and other traditional weapons

The holy scriptures testify that on this day Rama killed Ravana and his victory was celebrated. Therefore, it is also called 'Vijaya Dasami'. (Victorious tenth day). In Orissa it was, therefore, a military festival. In the villages the agriculturists worship their implements. The Khandayats or the Paikas bring out their rusty swords, spears and other weaponry to clean and worship. The Paika Akhadas are held in which young men indulge in stylised military dances, display of sword-fighting and various acrobatic stunts. People in general polish their instruments of profession at this time and also clean, plaster and whitewash their houses. Beautiful flower-designs are painted on both sides of the doors.

Bhai juntia

It is generally known in the region of western Orissa. Bhaijiutia feast is celebrated in the Mahastami day of the Durga Puja by the Oriya women of Western Orissa and Chhattisgarh. It is a total fasting by women for the whole day and night to seek the goddess Durga blessing for the long life of their bhais (brothers).

Gauri Puja

Gauri puja also known as Hara-Gauri Puja and Hara-Parvati Puja, is observed by young, unmarried girls, who fast and pray for getting suitable husband. In some part of the state the idol of Shva and Parvati also installed along with the idol of Mahishamardini Durga.

Chhatar Jatra

This festival is observed during the Dussehra in the month of Aswin in the town of BhawaniPatna,Dist.Kalahandi. This festival is dedicated for Maa Manikeswari,the presiding deity of the region. Lakhs of devoties from Orissa and adjoing Chattisgarh comes to pay there homage during Chatar Jatra. After performing the traditional Sandhi Puja in the Manikeswari temple on Mahastami night, the ceremonial Chhatra of Goddess Manikeswari was taken to Jenakhal, about three kilometres from of the town where secret rituals were performed in the early hours of Mahanavami. During the return journey, with the thrilling beats of the Jena badya, Nisan, and Ghanta the Deity was accompanied with dancers performing Ghumura, a traditional martial dance form. Devotees followed the Deity and made offering as a mark of the fulfillment of their wishes. The devotees also released hundreds of doves into the air in the name of the deity during the celebrations. At the main gate of the temple, the Maharaja of Kalahandi performed a puja and receive the Chhatra from the priests and take it inside the temple.It is famous for its animal sacrifice also.

Biraja/Viraja Dussehra Rath Yatra

Jajpur town has grown around temples. The main temple is that of Birajadevi or Biraja Temple. Mounted on a lion she carries a spear with one arm and holds the tail of Mahishasur with the other. Festivals are held at Durga Puja & Kali Puja. Jajpur is another Hindu pilgrimage. It is one of 51 holy places and it is where Sati's navel fell. It was named after king Jajati Keshari. In course of time this became Jajpur. It was once the capital of Orissa.Navi gaya is found here inside the temple. The materials put in the Navi Gaya is supposed to go to Samudra(Sea).Annual Car festival is also seen here during Durga Puja in the Aswina month.

Dussehra Bullock race

Hundreds of people throng Chandrapada village in costal Orissa, to watch a traditional bullock race during Dussehra/Durgapuja.Century old tradition is the 'Dussehra Bullock race,' in which, at least 50 bullock from the village, decked in embroidered sheets and smeared with vermilion and various paints race against each other.Bullock owners pamper their bovines round the year and feed them with sesame oil, green fodder and other high calorie diet so that the animals can win the annual competition. First the villagers perform various rituals and serve food to Brahmins. Once the rituals are over, the villagers bathe the bullock and smear colours on them. After this,they decorate them with embroidered sheets that are embedded with beads. Once the bullock is ready,people toss a live fish in front of it. After this, they let the bullock loose and they start running. A big feast is organised as the bullock race ends.

Jeypore Dussehra Mahotsav

The festival fervour here reminds the glorious past of the erstwhile Jeypore kingdom of south Orissa. The practice of villagers coming to the town carrying their village deities has been attracting tourists in large numbers. The countdown for ‘Patuara’, the night procession on Vijaya Dashami has begun as people are eagerly waiting to start the procession from the King’s palace, in which the village heads will carry the deities to bring them to Dusherra ground where demon Mahishasur will be killed. The notes found in the diary of an eminent palm leaf designer of Jeypore kingdom revealed the glorious past of Dussehra celebration here. The diary, which was written in 1956 was recovered in Jeypore recently. Describing the festival spirit in those days, he had written about the splendour of eight elephants and 20 horses leading the procession with people beating huge drums apart from nagara, toori and birakahali, specially brought for the occasion.Dussehra in Jeypore is not just worshiping Durga. The festival is an occasion for people to reunite. People from distant places, like Umerkote and Nandapur, used to visit ‘Jayapura’, the ancient name of Jeypore Earlier, itl was celebrated for 16 days. Village heads were invited and their procession was known as ‘lathi yatra’ King used to honour the village heads. It has a great effect on the people who remained united.

Gosani Yatra of Puri

Janhikhai durga in Puri in traditional Kalinga attire

The Jagannath Puri, as known to the most of India, too gears up to welcome Devi Durga. Here people call it Gosani Yatra. It is noteworthy that the co-worship of Mahisamardini Durga with Madhava (Lord Jagannath) is prevalent from 11th century,Ganga period, in Puri. This fact is evident from the sculptures on the temple walls i.e., from the pista of the Jagamohana of the Sun temple at Konark and on the northern bedha of the Bhogamandapa of the Jagannath temple, Puri. In these representations, Sivalinga, Mahisamardini Durga and Lord Jagannath are seen installed on a pedestal and worshipped by a king. However the Gosanis represent several aspects of Mahisamardini Durga at Puri and worshipped during the Durga Puja festival. The Gosani Yatra of Puri has its origin in the folk culture. This fact is evident from the local folk names they bear such as Kakudikhai, Barabati, Janhimundia, Janhikhai, Sunya Gosani, Panapriya, Hadabai, Gelabai, Belabai etc. There are several local traditions and legends behind the names of the Gosanis. During Gosani Yatra, different types of other clay figures of Sampati bird along with monkeys, Ravana lifting Kailash mountain, Demons, Ghosts, Nagas, wooden toys etc. are also worshipped. At Puri the faces of the Gosani figures are depicted in such a manner which gives an impression that Devi is closely watching Mahisasura and engaged in fierce fighting. Here in this case both Mahisasura and Devi look at each other with great concentration. It is evident from the straight eye contact between them unlike the images of Kolkata and Cuttack where the face of Devi is generally depicted in profile manner. Another feature of the Gosani images of Puri is that, here the demon in most of the cases is depicted in theriomorphic form i.e., the head is of the buffalo and the body is of a human being.

The autumnal or Sharadiya ceremony started in different parts of the state at different times. Although the dates are the same, the traditions differ.


The bejwelled devis in Cuttack durgapuja

The city of Cuttack is the socio-cultural center of the state. The earliest Sarbojonin Durga Puja was reportedly held in the Kazi Bajaar area of the city in 1832 by both Oriya and Bengali employees of East India Company. The local people participated in the festivities enthusiastically. However due to differences which cropped up later, the Oriyas decided to organise the Puja on their own.Now silver and Gold jewellary clad Durga is seen in many lanes and pandals.Noteworthy,the pandal is permanent throughout the year in colonies of Cuttack where regular worship is done for the divine mother,and idols are made only during Dussehra time and immersed after that.

A still earlier version holds that Chaitanya Deb Mahaprabhu started the Pujas in 1505 AD when he visited Cuttack on his way to Puri to the temple of Lord Jagannath. Even though this may be true, the autumnal ceremony or "Akaal Bodhon" as people celebrate now is a much according to Markandeya Purana and is not codified in most ancient Hindu scriptures.


The Silk city Berhampur is commercial nerve centre of Orissa and one of the prominent socio cultural centres of Eastern India. It is one of the religious epicenters of Orissa and famous for its Shakti cult. The presence of Adi Shakti Pith Maa Taratarini Temple near Berhampur and other major shakti centers like Bhairavi, Mahamayee, Mohuri Kalika,Singhasini, Upper Bagh Devi Temple etc. makes it proves its traditions. The city bears a carnival look during Durga Puja.

Maa Tara Tarini

The Tara Tarini Shrine is one of the oldest pilgrimage centers of Mother Goddess and is one amongst the four major ancient Shakti Peethas in India. This oldest and famous Adi Shakti Pith is situated on the holy Taratirini hill (Purnagiri) at a distance of 30 km from Berhampur in the state of Orissa, India. It is believed to be the Breast Shrine (Sthana Pith) of Adi Shakti and originated from the limbs of the Corpse of Mata Sati. The mythological texts recognize four major Shakti Peethas,i.e. [Tara Tarini] (Stana Khanda)near Berhampur, Vimala (Pada Khanda) inside the Jagannath Temple (Puri), Kamakhya (Yoni khanda) near Guwahati and Dakshina Kali, Kalighat (Mukha khanda) in Kolkata. Apart from these, there are 52 other sacred Shakti Peethas, which originated from the limbs of the corpse of Mata Sati in the Satya Yuga, present in Indian sub-continent.

Explaining the importance of this Pith ‘Brihat Samhita’ described it as the most prominent TARA PITH and also gives the geographical location of this shrine. In Sanskrit:

"Rushikulya** Tatae Devi,
Tarakashya Mahagiri,
Tashya Srunga Stitha Tara,
Vasishta rajitapara."
    • Rushikulya: A famous River flowing on the foot hill of the Tara Tarini Hill Shrine


The Kar family of Balasore started Durga Puja here. In 1852, Shram Chandra Kar celebrated the first Durga Puja in the town. Durga Puja is now celebrated in many parts of the city of Balasore. The Kar family still celebrates the Puja every year making it one of the oldest family puja in the state.


Even Durga Puja is celebrated with full pump & show by GHOSH FAMILY. GHOSH FAMILY has a very rich history of culture and still has its existence with full glory. GHOSH FAMILY has a Shyamchand jew Temple and a Durga Mandap within its premises.


Bhadrak is the seat of Goddess BhadraKali, one of the manifestations of Shakti. Durga Puja is linked to ancient rituals connected with the Goddess although the autumnal ceremony started in 18th century.

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