Diwali, the festival of lights, is uniquely celebrated in Orissa. It has its own charm and style. It is marked by calling spirit of ancestor by lighting a lamp inside an earthen pot tied to a pole erected in front of the house. Rows of oil lamps, candles and lanterns adorn the thresholds of all houses. Crackers are burst; sweet meals are relished and distributed.
Kali Puja is the main event on Diwali. The Pooja is performed at midnight and pushpanjali (flowers) is offered around two o’ clock in the morning. Some people observe a fast on this occasion and partake food only after the Puja is over. Many sweets are made on Diwali, but kheer is a must.
In the evening, the members of the household gather together just after dusk. A Rangoli of a sailboat is made on the ground. The boat has seven chambers. Over the drawing of each different chamber several items are kept – cotton, mustard, salt, asparagus root, turmeric and a wild creeper. Over the central chamber are the offerings meant for prasad. Perched over the prasad is a jute stem with a cloth wick tied around the edge. It is lit at the beginning of the Puja. All members of the family hold a bundle of jute stems in their hands. Beside the Rangoli, a mortar and pestle and a plough are also kept and worshiped.
On this day, in every Oriya home, the entire family gives fire salutes to the ancestors of the maternal side. The salute is given by invoking the “Badabadua”. Patriotic Oriyas gather in front of the Sri Madira, abode of Sri Jagannatha at Puri on the evening of Kali Pooja with Kaunria sticks bundled together and setting fire thereto raise the flame high while saluting the Badabaduas with the words,
“Bada badua ho,
Andhara re aasi,
Alua re jaao.
Baaishi pahaacha re gada gadau thaao.”
In fact the bundles of Kaunria kathi used for the fire salute are symbolic of the strength of unity that the Oriya ancestors had shown against Aryan aggressors in the Kalinga war.