Pune, Maharashtra – The vibrant and diverse culture of western Odisha came alive in Pune as migrant Odias, far from their homeland, celebrated the grand Nuakhai festival with immense fervor and enthusiasm. This annual gathering, known as Nuakhai Bhetghat, held in the heart of the city, brought the Odia community together to commemorate their rich traditions and shared heritage.
The event, which took place at the elegant Emerald Hall in Baner, was organized by the “Bhetghat Cultural Association” (BCA), a registered association comprising migrant Odias in Pune. With Hemsagar Sahu, the President of BCA, at the helm, the festivities were officially inaugurated by none other than Kerala’s Director General of Police, Dr. Sanjeev Patjoshi, an IPS officer of great repute. Dr. Patjoshi graced the occasion as the chief guest, lighting incense sticks and lamps at the portrait of Maa Samalei, the revered deity of western Odisha.
In addition to the esteemed presence of Dr. Patjoshi, the event drew in a crowd of local dignitaries, intellectuals, social workers, culture enthusiasts, and artists. This eclectic mix of guests reflected the inclusive nature of the Nuakhai celebration, transcending geographical boundaries and embracing all who appreciate and admire Odia culture.
While many Odias households celebrated Nuakhai in the confines of their homes, Nuakhai Bhetghat had a larger mission in mind. It aimed to foster unity, solidarity, and brotherhood among the migrant Odia community, offering a sense of togetherness that can be especially comforting in a distant city. Furthermore, the event served as a means to preserve and promote the age-old tradition and cultural significance of this grand festival from western Odisha.
One of the highlights of the evening was the dazzling display of traditional Sambalpuri sarees. The women attendees donned a colorful array of these intricately designed garments, while the men embraced the cultural spirit by wearing Sambalpuri attire, truly transforming the stage into a piece of western Odisha. This year’s Nuakhai Bhetghat was unique in that it was orchestrated entirely by women, showcasing the pivotal role they play in the Nuakhai rituals.
For those unfamiliar with the festival’s traditions, Nuakhai marks the first harvest of the year, primarily rice (paddy). Families gather to offer their gratitude and prayers to Ishtadevi, the presiding deity, before sitting down together to partake in ‘nabanna,’ the freshly harvested rice. This communal act of sharing and feasting symbolizes the essence of Nuakhai, uniting families and communities in joy and gratitude for nature’s bounty.
Nuakhai Bhetghat in Pune serves as a heartwarming reminder that traditions and cultural values can transcend geographical boundaries. It is a testament to the resilience of migrant communities, who, even far from their homeland, continue to cherish and celebrate the spirit of their cultural heritage. In this vibrant and colorful celebration, Odias in Pune finds not only a taste of home but also a renewed sense of unity, bonding, and shared identity.