Odisha has been a hotspot tourist place for decades now. Famous for its cultural diversity, Odisha has many scenic destinations as well as an astounding variety of food to offer. One of the most popular and the biggest attraction in Odisha is the 7-days long Bali Jatra that happens every year at Gadagadia Ghat of the River Mahanadi. Celebrating the ancient maritime glory of Odisha, when merchants from the State set sail to the far-eastern countries for trade and commerce, the historic and the largest open trade fair Bali Jatra is held in Cuttack every year in November.
In this founding month of Odisha, let me take you on a beautiful journey that is known as the BALI JATRA.
Sail through history: Odisha’s Lake Chilika was an important starting point for the voyage to the Islands of Indonesia. The mariners of Kalinga, therefore, used the lake as a safe harbor. The mariners didn’t directly set sail for Indonesia. Rather, they would first sail to Sri Lanka using the north-eastern monsoon winds that blow from mid-November. The traders of Kalinga weren’t the only ones voyaging to Indonesia. They were joined by merchants from Tamil, Bengal, and Andhra as well. However, the Sadhaba merchants of Kalinga had a dominant influence and started this whole journey, while everyone else followed.
To remember and celebrate seafaring adventures and trades undertaken by the old merchants, Odias celebrate “Kartik Purnima”. It is celebrated in Mid-November marking the time when the early traders set sail for Indonesia. Hence, Bali Jatra, literally meaning “journey to Bali”, is said to be a celebration of the voyages that were undertaken during ancient times by The Odias.
The largest Fair In Asia: Bali Jatra has been deemed the largest open trade fair in Asia. Merchants from the entire country gather here to conduct business. Over 1300 stalls are set up throughout the Bali Jatra grounds. The merchants sell everything from contemporary technology, popular ethnic handicrafts to frivolous household items. These along with a long line of food stalls as well as different games and activities makes Bali Jatra one of the most popular fairs in the country
Arts, crafts and everything in between: Bali Jatra is also a heaven for shoppers everywhere. From modern-day frocks to more ethnic salwar kameez, you will find everything here. Among the articles that are put on display, the most popular is the famous Chanderi Saree from MP. Woolen items from Kashmir, leather products from Rajasthan, along with Odisha’s own handloom and handicrafts, are also put on display for the visitors to buy. A National-level Pallishree Mela is arranged to bring together ethnic and other rural traditional products of about 24 States. The silver Filigree Pavilion also supports and promotes the traditional silver filigree works of Cuttack city during this trade fair.
Food and Entertainment: As big as the grounds on which this Jatra is held, the collection of food items is bigger! An amalgamation of different cultures from across the state, this carnival is foodie heaven. From Cuttack’s famous Dahi Bara Aloo Dum to the once a year Bali Jatra special Thunkapuri, you will not be disappointed when it comes to food. For all those who observe the month-long Kartika brata (Kartik Vrat during which one cannot consume non-veg), this is a non-vegetarian haven for you. Bali Jatra offers an extraordinary array of food items including crowd favorites such as chicken and mutton biryani, egg, prawn and chicken chops, rolls, chowmein, etc. to enjoy and for takeaways, as well. (Hungry? I AM!).
When it comes to entertainment, many performances happen here which includes cultural shows and singing shows. Odissi song and dance performances are the most popular. The variety of rides keeps both children and adults entertained. From giant wheels to roller coasters, to shoot the duck, everything here makes Bali Jatra extremely impressive. I promise you, you will not be bored!
Bali Jatra receives a footfall of nearly three lakh visitors every day. being the largest open trade fair, it is crowded, loud and cramped. But, it showcases the cultural diversity of Odisha in the most beautiful and rustic way possible. Every Odia is proud of this tradition and revels in the feeling of being Odia.