Khandagiri Kumbh Mela will begin on February 1 on the occasion of ‘Magha Saptami’. Every year, this nine-day festival begins on ‘Magha Saptami’ and ends on the full moon day of the month.
What is the story behind the mela?
According to mythological reference, a demon called ‘Sambhasur’ was suffering from leprosy and sought the help of the sun god ‘Surya’. As a blessing from ‘Surya Dev’, Sambhasur took a bath in the Chandrabhaga river and reached Khandagiri. It is said that after eating ‘Khandagiri’ and meditating there, he recovered from leprosy.
According to this belief, saints and monks from various parts of the country chant and meditate in Khandagiri and Udayagiri in the Magha month. The belief is that it keeps one away from all diseases and helps one in remaining calm.
According to another belief, this nine-day mela is also called ‘Ananta Kesari Jatra’ although there is no documentary proof of the same. In 1820, when the historian, Stagling came to visit Khandagiri, he mentioned ‘Shunya Temple’. Locals believe Ananta Keshari Dev resides here. Just like the Puri Ratha Yatra, Ananta Keshari Dev’s Ratha Yatra is celebrated every year from Magha Saptami to the full moon day of the month.
Ananta Keshari Dev travels to Mausi Temple (now known as Naga Matha) of Jagamara village for nine days during this festival. There is also a belief that, when the British attacked Odisha, Lord Ananta Keshari was shifted to Jagamara village from Khandagiri.
After the mela, he is brought back to Jagamara village. But this tradition has been changed over time. Ananta Keshari is brought to Ranahanspur of Udayagiri instead of Khandagiri only for a day on Magha Saptami.
What happens at Khandagiri Mela
Saints and monks congregate here for the mela. The interesting fact about the mela is that a Yajna is performed in front of Ananta cave. On the first day of the mela, Pancha Sakhas are installed and Ram Charitra Manas is read here. A large number of saints from across the country assemble here and take part in the rituals. On the second day of the festival, a lamp is lit in front of Barabhuja Devi and at the end of the mela, it is dedicated in the Yanja’.
Besides the traditional rituals, a variety of stalls are put up for 20-25 days. People from Jagamara, Gandmunda, Aaiginia, Dumdum, Barmunda, Ghatikia and Bharatpur are deeply involved in this mela. Others from across the state with their bamboo, clay and stone craft. Farmers also enjoy this festival as they harvest grains at this time. Besides, delicious food, handmade crafts and household products are sold here. Both sides of the road towards Khandagiri Chowk are decorated with lights.
Jatra is the main focus of this mela. Twelve major Jatra troupes will perform on six stages in the Khandagiri Mela. Hoardings of famous Jatra troupes have been installed on both sides of the road. All the Jatra troupes will compete with one another. So, this is also called the ‘Undeclared Jatra Competition’. Various artists belonging to different Jatra troupes meet on one stage. With their powerful story and famous Jatra dialogues, they attract the maximum crowd. Jatra competitions will be held in three phases, from February 5 to 16.