The smell of freshly harvested paddy and the first wind of winter mark the beginning of an interesting festival in Odisha, a remote state of India on the coast of Bay of Bengal. The beautiful golden paddy fields and early morning dew on blooming marigolds tell the saga of the mythical legend behind “manabasa Gurubar” (worshiping first harvest of paddy on Thursdays).
Inspired by the mythical legend, Manabasa Gurubar (Thursdays) is celebrated with all the enthusiasm by people here. It is the worship of Goddess Lakshmi in the month of Margasira (November-December) as per the traditional Oriya Calendar. The belief is that on every Manabasa Gurubar (Thursdays), Laxmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, visits every home.
It also is the worship of the first harvest of paddy of the year. Rice is the staple food in Odisha and the first harvest brings about festive sentiments and the Odias equate it with Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
Before the festival starts women clean their houses thoroughly. On that particular day they get up long before sunrise, clean the house (It is believed that Goddess Lakshmi never visits a house if it is untidy and dirty ), take bath and make alpana (it is an art form) in front of the house. Alpana is mostly made of rice paste.
In the form of alpana women make small foot marks of Lakshmi to invite her into the house. It is important to point the foot marks inwards indicating for her to step that way.
Early in the morning they perform the worship.
After the worship, they get together and read “Lakshmi Purana” together.
This is the time of winter approaching and one can see marigold flower plants in the front and the back of every house.
Marigold is the main flower used in the worship and the rituals involved.
The most important ritual involves in worship is a special pot made of bamboo canes (used in the early days) for measuring paddy. That is called mana. It is filled up to the brink with newly harvested paddy.
Many sweet dishes are prepared which are called “pitha” in local language. Special food is made for family and the friends.
Women get together and sing songs for the special occasion.
The Legend of Manabasa Gurubar is based on the ancient scripture “Lakshmi Puran”.
In Hinduism, Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity. She is also the wife of God Jagannath. Jagannath is always accompanied by his brother Balabhadra, another God.
It is said that during those times the untouchables were not allowed to pray, worship or participate in religious activities. They were not allowed in the vicinity of any temple and no upper cast people touched them even by mistake. In such times, an untouchable woman Sriya dared to pray and worship and won over the support and blessings of Goddess Lakshmi.
Lakshmi incurred the wrath of her husband for her efforts to end discrimination on earth by encouraging untouchables to conduct rituals and worship and she was forced to move out of Jagannath’s house at the behest of his elder brother Balaram. The after effect was interesting. Both the brothers Jagannath and Balram underwent immense suffering. It became worse and they were starved without water and food.
The curse of Lakshmi had a severe impact on both the brothers and for the next 12 years they went through a tough time. At last they realized the importance of Lakshmi and get Lakshmi back in the house. Lakshmi returned on one condition that there would be no discrimination on caste and creed on earth.
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