Priests at the Shri Jagannath Temple, Chandigarh, with their boat. Tribune photo
Sai R Vaidyanathan
The desire to go abroad and do well is not unique to Punjabis. The Odiyas too have a long history of it.And on this Saturday, when Punjabis will be celebrating Gurpurb, residents of the tricity hailing from Odisha will celebrate Boita Bandhana.In olden days, sea traders from Odisha — called sadhabas — used to sail to distant lands like Java, Sumatra, Borneo and Ceylon on huge boats (called boita).For their trip to be safe and successful, the women would see them off on the auspicious day of Kartik Purnima.To commemorate those adventures on the high seas, Odiyas today float small boats made of cork, paper or thermocol in nearby ponds and rivers.“Members of the community from the tricity will launch 50 boats — small and big — at 6 am on November 4. For this, a small pond has been dug up on the premises of Shri Jagannath Temple, Sector 31-D, Chandigarh,” said priest Lakshminarayan.“After that, a team from Gaudiya Muth, Sector 20, Chandigarh, will conduct kirtan. That will be followed by bhandara at 1 pm,” said Sushant Kumar Nayak, general secretary of the temple.“The month of Kartik is special to the Odiyas. A large majority of us don’t consume non-vegetarian food in this month. Even the remaining few give up eggs, fish and meat for the last five days of Kartik. This period is called Panchuka,” said Sushant.
The state and the sea
- In The Discovery of India, Jawaharlal Nehru writes: Of Sailendra, the mighty man of war and conquest and other achievements, Dr HG Quaritch Wales has written: ‘This great conqueror, whose achievements can only be compared with those of the greatest soldiers known to western history, and whose fame in his time sounded from Persia to China, in a decade or two built up a vast maritime empire which endured for five centuries, and made possible the marvellous flowering of Indian art and culture in Java and Cambodia.’ The Sailendra dynasty…is believed to have come from Orissa.
- “Legend has it that the Konark temple on the Odisha coast had a statue that floated in air. It was held that way by a 52-ton lodestone magnet at the top of the temple and other smaller supporting magnets. The effect of the magnets interfered with the compasses in the ships. So, Portuguese sailors destroyed the temple and took away the lodestone.”