Each year Kartika Purnima is celebrated with religious fervour throughout the state. People during this festivity observe the ritual of Boita Bandana by floating tiny boats in ponds, rivers and other water bodies on the day of Kartika Purnima, which marks the end of the Hindu month of Kartika!
While in Bhubaneswar, enthusiastic devotees throng the banks of Bindu Sagar tank and also river Daya to sail the boats, in Cuttack, people basically visit the Mahanadi river ghat and other nearby water bodies. And in Puri, several devotees are seen visiting the Jagannath Temple to offer prayers to the Lord!
People mostly flock the river banks hours before sunrise to set the boats afloat along with diyas.
“The tradition is as old as the state itself and is a reminder of the maritime glory of Odisha, when ‘Sadhabas’ (sea traders) sailed off to the distant lands of Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Ceylon, Daman and Diu for trade by huge boats named as ‘Boita.’ The women of the community saw them off by saying ‘Aa ka Ma Boi, Pana Gua Thoi, Pana Gua Tora, Masaka Dharama Mora’, as a prayer to protect the people in their sea voyage and for their safe return,” narrates Devaraj Dash, a Pujari at Bindu Sagar.
Talking about the present day, Dash, however, feels that the ritual is gradually losing its traditional significance. “These days, people sail boats for sheer fun, which is evident from the fact that they don’t even consider removing their shoes,’’ he points out.
Seconding him, Dilip Barik, who owns a saloon near Ravi Talkies says, “The boats for this ritual should be made from the bark of the banana tree. But nowadays, people float boats made out of paper and thermocol as well which is not the actual tradition.”
If mythology is to be believed, the festival of Kartika Purnima commemorates the destruction of the demon Tripurasura by Lord Shiva who assumed the form of Tripurantaka to save the heaven from the havoc created by the demon and his sons. The killing of the demons and destruction of their cities with a single arrow by Shiva overjoyed the Gods and they declared the day as a festival of illuminations. This day is also called ‘Dev-Diwali’- the Diwali of the Gods.
The day also marks the end of the period of ‘Chaturmas’ (four months), during which Lord Vishnu is believed to sleep and no auspicious work is carried out.
Kartika Purnima is also synonymous with vows of abstinence, sacrifices, charity and worship. So it is universally celebrated across Indian communities and faiths. People of the Jain faith observe austere rituals and try to visit the pilgrim centre of Palitana, where the first Jain Tirthankara (Jain canonised preacher) delivered the first sermon.
The ultimate test for the devout Jain is a barefoot walk through a 216 km stretch of mountainous terrain to worship Lord Adinath. A parade of the Jain Lord Parasvanath is also taken out in some cities. In Sikh religion, Kartika Purnima is the day when its founder, Guru Nanak was born. So it is celebrated as Guru Nanak Jayanti across the world.