Nuakhai festival is celebrated every year on the full moon of Bhadrava month. It is a public festival of Odisha, especially Western Odisha. Everyone irrespective of caste, creed, and race celebrates this Nuakhai festival with joy and happiness. The belief, systems, and folk customs that are prevalent on the days before and after the Nuakhai festival are very important.
The main livelihood of the people of Western Odisha is agriculture. This Nuakhai festival has been celebrated since ancient times due to the importance of agricultural food. The Nuakhai festival is celebrated in some parts of Koraput including Kalahandi, Balangir, Sambalpur, Sundergarh, and Boudh districts of Odisha and Deobhog in Chhattisgarh state.
The main purpose of this festival is to offer the food of the new grain produced at the beginning of the year, especially the food that is left out of the grain produced from the beginning of the year’s harvest, at the feet of god and goddess, and at the same time to accept the Prasad himself. It depicts the history and philosophy of ancient life between work and pleasure.
Western Odisha is known as Kalinga-Koshal and is famous for its tribal appeal. The people of this area are mainly farmers. To produce more crops, they have been worshiping mother earth and celebrating various agricultural festivals, which today have found their place in every Odia people. Agriculture has long been envisioned as the main livelihood and food as the breath. In the words of Gangadhar Meher – Agriculture is the heart of civilization in the world; agriculture is the basis of all livelihoods. Every human being is born of a crop; crop is the means of sustaining life and the messenger of joy. Even in Veda Upanishad, grain is described as a god. Gangadhar Meher said – the entire world is carrying food, without food, the world cannot rise.
The people and society of Western Odisha have grown up with a close and intimate relationship with nature, not limited to rice alone, but use the new crop of each grain only after worshiping god and goddess. Similarly, in the month of Shravana, Mandiya Nuakhiya, and Guruji Nuakhiya, on the 10th day of Dashar Shukla, during Baligja, there was a tradition of eating maize after worshiping maize seeds. On the 8th day of Dashara, after the fast of Puo-Jountiya has been done, after worshiping mango, eating the fruit is one of the main customs of Western Odisha. In the month of Margashira, on the Krushnapakhya asthami, broad bean, pumpkin, pear, cowpea beans, radish, etc are offered to God by people first and then consumed. On Phalgun Purnima, mangoes are worshiped to the deity and eaten from that day onwards. It is clear from this that man eats whatever grain they produce only after offering it to his deity. However, these ecological imbalances such as modern humans can cultivate and harvest ahead of time, and sometimes somehow everything is done on time, so its importance is gradually decreasing. Even after all these events, mainly paddy cultivation, the environment is unbalanced, the time of cultivation is the time of harvesting, but even today, according to the ancient tradition, these locals are celebrating the festival at Nuakha celebrated on Bhadrava Shuklapakhya. So this is the main festival of Western Odisha.
Not only in Western Odisha but the entire region of Odisha, Nuakhai is a glorious public festival in Western Odisha, not only in India but also in neighboring countries. It has been seen that Nuakhai festival is celebrated together in the places where the people of West Odisha or Kalahandi are living and working. It is clear from this that the tradition which has been prevalent since the beginning of time is reflected in every Odia even today and is being followed by everyone.