THAKURANI JATRA – A rare Festival of India

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Odisha is a state with rich cultural and historical values. The people come together to dwell in the joy of celebrating every festival with utmost energy and excitement. Ratha yatra, Raja parba, Nuakhai, Chhau festival, Dhanu jatra, Thakurani jatra are some of the most famous festivals of Odia people. Some are celebrated across the state, whereas some are strictly regional.
Thakurani jatra is a hugely anticipated festival of southern Odisha and especially for the city of Brahmapur. Now you may ask, what makes this particular festival stand out among all the others celebrated in our country. Let us clarify.

Article By :Rukshita panda (https://rukshiiiscribbles.wordpress.com/)

Never Ending Love and Devotion:

Thakurani jatra is a festival with a monumental and captivating history to it. It’s a tradition that is being carried out over the last 300 years. The origination of this iconic festival was in the city of Brahmapur. And the love, devotion and dedication of people have only increased as the years have gone by. At any point of time, starting from 4 in the morning till 2 in the night, you can spot at least one lakh devotees flooding to the temporary mandap where the deity resides during the festival. The temporary mandap is built in the Bada Bazaar (The big market) locality of Brahmapur, which is otherwise an important business hub of the city. But during this festival, people close their shops to help visitors enjoy this festival without any trouble. The spirit of Thakurani jatra is so high that even the political parties take this opportunity to publicize as well as support the activities of the festival to the fullest of their caliber.

Emphasis on a daughter’s value in this society:

The legend of Thakurani Jatra showcases the value and importance of a daughter in this society. The story goes something like this – A good-hearted chief of the Dera community (A weaver’s community in Brahmapur) had warmly welcomed a crying unknown girl into his home on a Chaitra Tuesday night. And since that night, the Thakurani (The deity) regarded him as her father. The next morning, she told her father that whoever he encounters first on the way to his home from the temple, to be appointed as her priest. Since the first man the chief met on that day was a barber, the Deity “Maa Budhi Thakurani” is worshipped by barbers once in every two years since the year 1779. The core essence of Thakurani jatra is to welcome the Deity to her father’s home just like any married girl is welcomed to her parent’s residence. This festival helps people remember that daughters should be loved and showered with affection and that they are an important part of our society. What a wonderful message this festival brings us!

The Duration:

There are a very few festivals in India which are celebrated through a week, ten days etc. But; the glorious Thakurani jatra is a month-long celebration of Bramhapur’s culture, its people, flavors, past and present. This is one of the unique things associated with this festival.

The Deity visits her Devotees:

In most festivals, the only way to catch a glimpse of the Gods is to visit their temple or the pandals. But during Thakurani Jatra, the deity also visits her devotees. Which makes this festival a rare one.

Prior to the beginning of the festival, a shubha khunti (holy pole) is built in front of the house of the chief of Dera community. On the very first day of the festival, the chief goes to the temple with a large procession to invite the Goddess to a temporary mandap (stage) built near his house. On the same day the Goddess is brought to the temporary mandap which becomes her home for the coming month. On the following days, starting from the third day of the festival, Maa Budhi Thakurani sets on a parikrama (visiting spree) to the streets of Brahmapur.  A detailed schedule is prepared to allot which streets to be visited on which days. The parikrama covers almost 80 streets of Brahmapur. The procession sets out around 8pm every night from the temporary mandap to the already assigned streets for that night and they return around midnight to the mandap. The Goddess is then worshipped and the darshan (visitation) of Thakurani maa closes at night and it opens again around 4 in the morning the next day.

The excitement of people to welcome the Goddess into their street knows no bounds. Every street that the Goddess visits at night, is decorated lavishly with large pandals and inside are big sculptures of other Goddesses built by artists exhibiting the mythological values of Brahmapur. The city is known for its street foods and during the festival, there are many food stalls that come up just to serve local delicacies to all the people visiting Brahmapur and contribute in making their trip memorable.

The legendary Bagha Nacha

Bagha nacha (Tiger Dance) is one of the most awaited performances at the carnival during Thakurani Jatra. There is a certain procedure to be followed to prepare for this performance. And the performers follow every principle whole heartedly to be ready for the commencement day of the festival. The most distinguishing fact about the Tiger Dance is that, it is performed only with music from a rare instrument called changu-badya. There’s no lyrics associated with this dance. And therefore it is called a “geeta beehina loka nrutya” (lyrics-less folk dance). This is another rarity associated with Thakurani Jatra.

Emphasis on unity in diversity:

As you may have observed, in most of the other festivals, the Gods are worshiped by poojaris who are Brahmins. But in Thakurani jatra, the deity “Maa Budhi Thakurani” is worshipped by the people of barber caste. Talk about oneness, talk about embracing every one of the society to feel empowered – Thakurani jatra symbolizes just that.

During this festival, people from every religion, every caste come and indulge in its activities. They dress up as mythological characters to spread the grandeur of the festival to every corner of the city. Some dress up as Guru Nanak, some as Krishna, some as rakhshasi (Evil incarnations) and so on. Several theatrical troupes arrive from all over Odisha as well as outside of Odisha to showcase their acts during this festival. The festival unites people from every walk of life.

A festival of all the Gods & Goddesses:

As mentioned earlier, the Deity visits almost all the streets in Brahmapur on Parikrama. The major reason behind this parikrama is that the deity visits the other Goddesses of various localities to invite them to join in this grand celebration. There are almost 50+ rathas (carts) built during this festival. It is believed that this festival is not just about “Maa Budhi Thakurani”, in fact all the Gods and Goddesses take part in this month-long festival to bless the devotees.

These are some of the reasons why this particular festival is a rare gem among all the festivals observed in our country. Apart from keeping the spirit alive among people, this festival brings them together in many ways and spreads so many wonderful messages. Let us all celebrate this grand festival with maximum zeal once in every two years along with the people of Brahmapur.

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