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Baliyatra: Celebrating Odisha’s ancient links with Indonesia and Southeast Asia

  • Published
    18th Nov, 2022
Context

Bali Yatra, one of the biggest trade fairs in Odisha, has been held.

About

Historical significance:

  • Bali Jatra (also known as Bali Yatra and BoitaBanda?a) literally means ‘A Voyage to Bali’.
  • This festival is held in Odisha, in the city of Cuttack at GadagadiaGhata of the Mahanadi River.
  • It is organized every year to commemorate the 2,000-year-old maritime and cultural links between ancient Kalinga (today’s Odisha) and Bali and other South and Southeast Asian regions like Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Burma (Myanmar), and Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
  • The festival is celebrated from the day of Kartika Purnima (full moon night in the month of Kartik) can according to the Odia Calendar, which comes around the end of October and November.
  • People of Odisha gather near the banks of Mahanadi, Brahmani River, other river banks, and ponds to float miniature toy boats, made of colored paper as a symbolic gesture of their ancestors' voyage.

The festival is similar to the ‘MasakapanKeTukad’ festival of Bali, the ‘LoiKrathong’ festival of Thailand (ritualistic floating of model boats), the ‘Bon Om Touk’ Water Festival of Cambodia, and the ‘That Luang’ Festival of Laos all of which involve around the same time of the year.

Origins of the festival:

  • It begins on Kartik Purnima (full moon night in the month of Kartik) and can be traced back more than 1,000 years.
  • According to historians, popular items of trade between Kalinga and Southeast Asia included pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, silk, camphor, gold, and jewellery.
  • The Bay of Bengal region had several ports, and sadhavas (traders) traditionally began their voyage across the sea on this auspicious day, when the winds were favourable for the boats, known as boita, to sail.
  • Even today, people across Odisha sail decorative miniature boats made of banana stems, paper, or thermocol to celebrate boita bandana, or the worshipping of the boats.

Commercial Significance:

  • It is a time when people purchase everything from automobiles and electronic devices to local artisanal products at prices that are comparatively low.
  • Numerous communities of weavers and dyers became active throughout the state, perfecting techniques like the weaving of fine muslin, Ikat, Sambalpuri, and bomkai silks and cotton, applique, and embroidery.
  • The district administration allots stalls to traders through an auction, and the fair is estimated to see business worth more than Rs 100 crore over its nine days.

Odisha province:

  • It is known as Kalinga in ancient timesand was commanded by a very high position in the maritime activities of India in the past.
  • The heroic and ever-agile merchants of the ancient Kalinga kingdom were making daring voyages to different far-off lands of the world.
  • Odisha’s glorious maritime past has been proven from the excavated materials like Roman coins, Kushan coins, and Chinese ceramic sherds found in different parts of Odisha.

Odisha and Bali connection:

  • Odisha played a significant role in the evolution of Hindu culture in Bali.
  • A section of Brahmanas in the Karangasem district of Bali styled themselves as Brahmana - Bouddha – Kalinga.
  • It seems very likely that their ancestors were immigrants from Kalinga.
    • Some words and usages concerning vocabulary, crafts, religious practices, forms of worship, food habits, and manners prevalent in Bali areOdia in origin.
  • There are linguistic parallels between Odisha and the island of Bali.
  • Both the Balinese and the Odias' food habits seem to have some common likes and dislikes.

     

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