Today is KARTIK PURNIMA, the full moon day of Autumn. This special day has a historic significance for the state of Odisha where it is celebrated to commemorate its rich heritage. Once upon a time Odisha used to an independent state and a maritime superpower. It’s SADHAVAS (or traders) use to go on commercial trading expeditions to lands as far as Java, Sumatra, Borneo (modern day Indonesia and Malayan peninsula), bringing in riches and laurels. #Baliyatra This full moon day with high tide and the advent of winter with calm seas was considered an apt as well as auspicious occasion to launch a trade mission.
Many on this day in my home state flock in drove early in the morning to the nearest river, lake or pond to revisit the past. They float miniature yachts with lamps, slowly pushing them into water. Propelled by the rippled waves they waver a few feet with the lamps flickering before getting submerged. This symbolizes the present waning and faltering state of Odisha, which once upon a time was an independent Republic powerful enough to test the power of mighty Ashok in 261 BC. The pyrrhic victory was enough to change the CHANDASHOK (the Evil Ashok) to DHARMASHOK (the Pious Ashok). The other day I was watching the Hindi movie ASHOKA. When “Prince Ashok” played by actor Sah Rukh Khan strays inside the kingdom of Kalinga (modern day Odisha) he is offered food by a native who says KALING MEIN KOI BHUKHA NAHI RAHTA (nobody goes hungry in Odisha). In Odia there is saying “KARPURA UDI JAICHI, KHALI KANA PADICHI”, meaning the smell of camphor is gone, only the cloth remains. Gone are those glorious days, only left are the golden memories down the lane.
The day after is called CHHADAKHAAI when the Odias make trip to the local fish/meat market. They do it to break the logjam of their month long absence from non-veg food. This hiatus can be an entire month for the few devoted ones or 5 days(PANCHUKA) of absence at the fag end for the most. The prices of fish and meat skyrocket as the vendors often try to seize advantage of the demand. It’s not uncommon for street vendors being beaten for selling sub standard fish and meat. I remember reading in a local newspaper the thrashing of a guy accused of selling dog meat. This day also marks the beginning of the winter months, a very pleasant season.