Why do we celebrate “Bali Jatra” – The Odisha history behind the Bali Jatra, Maritime history of Odisha on Boita Bandan – History of Odisha
Odisha province, known as Kalinga in ancient times, was commanding a very high position in the maritime activities of India in the past. Brave and adventurous Kalinga sailors were making daring voyages to different far-off lands of the world and had maritime contacts with Roman Empire, Africa, Persian coast, Arabian countries in the West and China, Japan, Siam, Champa, Burma, Ceylon etc in the East. Besides, the countries with whom the people of Kalinga maintained enduring commercial and cultural relationship were the islands of Java, Sumatra, Bali and Borneo collectively known as Suvarnadvipa or modern Indonesia. Odisha’s glorious maritime past has been proved from the excavated materials like Roman coins, Kushan coins, Chinese ceramic sherds found from different parts of Odisha in the recent past.
Baliyatra literally means a ‘Voyage to Bali’, mean the trading movement (Jatra) from Kalinga (Odisha ) to Bali of Indonesia.
And it also suggests a festival connected with Bali.But people of Odisha, on this auspicious day, become nostalgic about their past associations with Bali and the glorious maritime tradition of trans-oceanic voyages they undertook to South East Asian countries. Large number of men, women and children attired in colorful costumes throng all water bodies carrying tiny boats made up of banana peels or paper or solapitha with lighted lamps inside to launch them on the gentle waves accompanied by blowing of conch, ululations by women and occasional burst of crackers. Oriya women perform the rite of ‘Boita
Bandana’ to evoke the memories of the voyages of adventurous Kalingans of yore and create a truly romantic mood.
Bali of Indonesia and Kalinga (Odisha/Orissa) of India have influenced each other’s culture to a great extent. There are many similarities between the culture and life-style of the people of these two countries.
Trade with Bali appears to have started before the Christian Era. Bali had many products that were attractive to Kalinga’s traders, including cinnamon, long pepper, white pepper and cardamon, pearls and gems, silk, camphor, bees wax and sandalwood. Traders from Kalinga brought muslin and other fine cloths, rugs, brocade, armour, gold and jewellery. There is a tradition that the first ruler of Bali was an Indian named Kaudinya, around 600 AD, and this name later became the title for future rulers. It is possible that the island is named after Bali, a legendary king of Odisha/Orissa. Traditional masked dances that are performed in Orissa and Bali for the purpose of removing evils and bringing good fortune have many similarities that point to ancient cultural exchanges. The trade began to decline in the 8th century AD, as Arabs became the predominant maritime power in the region. The festival of “Bali Jatra”, or “Journey to Bali”, is still celebrated throughout coastal Orissa in memory of the ancient trading links.
Check more as how we celebrate this days as “aka maa boi … and we have Special Cover ( FDC ) of Bali Jatra – Boita Bandana at Cuttack– Odisha –
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1> writer Prabhukalyan Mohapatra