Hari-Hara Milan On Makar Sankranti Symbolises Lifelong Friendship In Odisha’s Sambalpur 

Sambalpur: Across the country, Makar Sankranti marks the beginning of the change in Sun’s journey, which translates into longer days. Odisha enlightens this festival with a holy dip in the river or sea at dawn, sun worship, flying kites and Makar Chaula.

Themera, a village located in Sadar block of Sambalpur, has a different flavour of this festival. In the native language, Makar means friendship. Taking a cue from this, the village has a unique concept of Hari (Krishna) and Hara (Shiva) Milan just a day after Makar Sankranti, which is also known as Makar Yatra.

Since the Mahabharat kaal, Makar Sankranti celebration is part of our culture. Different regions have their own take on this festival. The celebrations are unique even in different parts of Odisha. 

Bashudev Mahapatra, an  80-year-old native of Themera, shared a past story linked to this festival. “My grandparents  also talked about celebrating this festival with equal zest and zeal. You can say this is a 100-years-old tradition that we are taking forward. On Makar Sankranti, we believe by sharing Makar Chaula with friends, we became lifelong friends or Makar. Our Hindu scripture says, Shiva and Vishnu are each other’s best friends, so on this day, just like us, God shares friendship with each other,” he said.

“As per the tradition, two different temples of Jagannath and Shiva were constructed in different ends of the village. Earlier, one chariot (Ratha) was made for each God. Lord Jagannath has a specific Rath Jatra, so he did not come out of the temple on Makar Sankranti. In his place, Lord Krishna came out in the chariot. Lord Shiva, boarded the other chariot at his temple. After starting from their respective temples, both these chariots assembled in the middle of the village. There, they stood in front of each other.There was a  common ground created between the two chariots, which was used to offer puja to both the Gods together.This puja was offered by the head of the village (Gauntia).This puja is known as Makar-Milan (Bheto),” he added.

This has changed a lot now. Due to population explosion and village expansion, the roads have become narrow. The original chariots were large in size and those were heavily decked up So taking it through the roads was not possible. Villagers have come out with an innovative solution so that the richness of the tradition is maintained and fits the current scenario. 

Now, the original chariots stand at the respective temples and a miniature one, smaller in size is used. Now that there are two Hari-Milans, the respective head priests of Vishnu and Shiva Temples offer puja to both the deities kept in two raths, both at one place.

 “Local village talent is used for building the chariot,” said Arun Sahoo, the artist of this year’s Krishna chariot.

“A team of 30 volunteers worked for 60 days to make the chariot, which is 45 feet high. The donations collected from villagers are used to cover all the expenses of the festival. Danda Nacha, Ghanta troup and dance competition for the local youth is now a part of the festival. There is also a Meena Bazar and fun shops to pull crowds,” he adds.

 Due to development and lack of jobs, many villagers have moved out of Themera for better opportunities.The scale of the event and the fervour draws them all back to their homeland on this day as everyone gets a chance to meet their family, neighbours and friends and to relive the moments.

Also, for the last 100 years, Hari-Hara Milan has been a bonding force as there are many Makars who meet and delve themselves in the essence  of this festival.


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