Kali Puja, the festival of lights, is uniquely celebrated in Odisha. In the evening, all the homes are decorated and lighted with rows of earthen lamps. Crackers are burst, sweets are relished and distributed. It could be similar to Diwali Festival anywhere else in India.
Some people, especially in the business community, observe it as a New Year’s day and worship Goddess Lakshmi on the occasion. On this day, they settle their business accounts, bury old enimity and start pursuits anew for the coming new year.
Maa Kali is the fearful and ferocious form of the mother goddess Durga. Kali is also called Shyama Kali who is the first of the 10 avatars (incarnations) of Durga. Kali puja is performed on the night of Kartik Amavasya, which falls in the month of October/November.
On the eve of Deepavali, all the family members remain present at their homes. A rangoli of a sailboat is made on the ground to justify and celebrate the ancient Kalingan voyage . 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 which were the main trade item of Kaligan voyage . Over the central chamber are the offerings meant for prasad. Perched over the prasad is a jute stem (kaunria kathi) 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. Lighting their respective bundles from the flame on the rangoli, they raise them skywards chanting the following verse.
“Bada badua ho,
Andhara re asa, Alua re jao.
Baishi pahacha re gada gadau thao.”
This festival is celebrated differently in the district of Mayurbhanj. They call it ‘Bandana’. The festival is observed for three days beginning from Deepavali. On this occasion they worship the cows and bullocks. The nights are spent with drinking, feasting, singing and dancing.
Kali Puja is performed essentially to seek protection against drought and war, to be blessed with general happiness, health, wealth, and peace. It is observed to diminish the ego and all negative tendencies that hinder spiritual progress and material prosperity. The main purpose of the puja is to seek the help of the goddess in destroying evil – both in the outside world and within us.