Dola Purnima: Spring Celebrations in Odisha

Holi, the colourful spring festival, as celebrated in the Indian state of Odisha.

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A popular festival celebrating the onset of spring, Holi is celebrated as Dola Purnima in Odisha. 

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Lasting for 4-6 days, it begins on falgun dashami, the 10th day of the Hindu lunar calendar that falls between February and March. The celebrations end on the full moon night, known as dola purnima.

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Hues of Holi

The community also comes together to play with Holi colours as the procession continues to the temple.

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Sweet Treats

The celebrations are marked with festive treats like feni (sweet fried fritters), pethas (white pumpkin dipped in sugar), laddoos (spheres of sesame and puffed rice) and celebratory drinks like thandai.

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Thandai is a traditional sweet Holi drink prepared with milk, rose water, poppy seeds, as well various spices and dry fruits. Believed to have first been offered to Lord Shiva, some records of thandai date back to 1000 BC, making it one of the oldest drinks ever created. 

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Another coolant is ghola dahi, a spiced buttermilk drink that people enjoy when the sun is out.

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Grand Processions

The dola yatra, or the procession, is a large part of the celebrations, with the streets filled every day during the festive period. 

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Palanquins for the Idols

Elaborate palanquins, known as vimanas, are created to carry the idols of Lord Krishna, worshiped in his avatar of Lord Govinda, and Goddess Sridevi in a grand procession through the towns and villages of Odisha.

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These shoulder carriages range from simple to elaborate. The vimanas are decorated with flowers, leaves, colourful pieces of cloth and paper, and each locality vies to win the best award in the area.

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The idols, richly crafted by local artisans, are then elaborately decorated with gold jewellery and fine silks. They are then placed on swings made of silver or gold, before being finally placed in the palanquins.

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The Celebrations of Dola Purnima

Each morning, the procession is known as the dol yatra or dol jatra, is kicked off with much fanfare. The celebratory songs are an open invitation for everyone to join in and witness the occasion.

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A shower of flowers and colour, or abeer, followswhile bhog (sweets made from the recent harvest) are offered.

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Turns are taken to carry the palanquins while musicians add to the pomp and splendour with drum beats and the sound of conch shells. 

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As people break out into dances, the processions are guided by the local police to ensure there are no delays or blockades on the routes. 

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Come evening, the gwalas (milkmen), take over the responsibility of carrying the palanquin, as Lord Govinda is said to be from the gwala community. 

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A special tent is set up for the night where the idols are placed to rest. Meanwhile, people come together to play games and spend time with each other.

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Melana Padia - The Gathering of the Swings

The dol yatra concludes on the final day when the full moon would show, known as the dol purnima. At the end of the procession, the vimanas are collected in one space called the melana padia where the idols are put onto swings for a swing festival called dolatsaba

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It is believed that those who witness the swing festival are cleansed of all sin.

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The End of the Festivities

At the end of the four day festival of Dola Purnima, the idols are given a dip in the pond and are then taken back to the temple. 

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That evening, devotees gather to pay their respects as the festival celebrating the victory of good over evil winds down.

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