Bali Yatra is believed to be the largest
open air fair in the state of Odisha. It
is organized every year in the Cuttack city in
the month of Karthik as per the Oriya Calendar.
The festival begins towards the end October and
November on the Kartik Purnima day and continues
for seven days. The festival is celebrated in
the vicinity of Barabati Fort, at the Gadagadia
Ghata located on the bank of Mahanadi River.
Background of the festival
'Bali Jatra' means Journey to Bali. This fair is organized to commemorate the day when the ancient Oriya mariners or the Sadhabas would undertake commercial sea voyage to the far-off islands of Bali, Sumatra, Borneo, Srilanka and Java for cultural and trade expansion. The Kartika Purnima day was considered by the Sadhabas as the most auspicious day to begin their sea journey. Big fabric sails (Ajhala) were used to stir huge boats known as Boitas. Hence, the Bali Jatra festival is also referred to as Boita Bandana Utsab (boat festival).
The festival is also associated with the rituals of Taapoi, a traditional ritual in which young maidens awaited the return of their sailor lovers and brothers.
How is it celebrated
The Bali Yatra fair witnesses myriads of tourists from different parts of the world. Several stalls selling toys, gift items, handloom garments, household items, etc. are set up during the festival. Local Oriya delicacies such as Thunka puri, Gupchup, Cuttacki Dahivada Aludum, Barafa pan, etc. are the prime attraction of the festival.
In the evening the people place small oil lamps in small toy boats and float them in the Mahanadi River. The famous song - Aa ka ma bai, pan gua khai... is also sung by the people. This practice is followed to honour the glorious maritime legacy of the ancient Odisha. Boating with family and friends are also organized in the moonlit night.
The festival of Bali Yatra provides a platform for different cultural and commercial exchange. Every year this fair is awaited with lot of enthusiasm and zeal by the people.