Bhubaneswar: Miniature decorated boats made of banana barks, cork and paper were set out by the people of Odisha in ponds, rivers and the sea Sunday, in a traditional celebration of the state’s maritime history, officials said.

Thousands of people of all age groups, as also women and children, floated the small boats near Dhabaleswar temple in Cuttack and Bindusagar pond in state capital Bhubaneswar as part of “Boita Bandana” (worship of voyage) festival.

Crowds were seen in Balasore, Puri, Konark and on Paradip beach. A large number of devotees also visited temples.

In ancient times, sea traders from Odisha known as “sadhabas” would begin their sea voyages on the full moon day of the Kartika month of the Hindu calendar, to the Indonesian island of Bali.

Those days are now gone, but people float tiny boats and celebrate the festival of “Boita Bandana” every year in memory of that past glory.

Similarly, according to a belief, the last five days of the month of Kartika, called Panchaka, are considered sacred. The last day, named Kartika Purnima, is considered the most sacred.

It is believed that those who take a dip in the sea, in rivers of ponds on that day and visit the temple early in the morning get absolution from their sins.

Hundreds of thousands of devotees visited the Jagannath temple in Puri, about 56 km from here, during the pre-dawn hours to have a glimpse of Hindu deity Lord Jagannath.

On this occasion, the government organises week-long trade fairs — named “Bali Yatra” (voyage to Bali) — in Cuttack and the state’s port town of Paradip. Rituals are also held on a smaller scale at Chilika Lake.

The fair at Kila Maidan on the riverbank of Cuttack, 26 km from here, is the biggest trade fair in the state. More than 100,000 people visit it, on average, at this time of year.

Source: IANS