As we embrace summer leaving behind spring, the entire country enters into the festive mood. Different types of celebrations take place across the country to mark the new beginning. Odias observe New Year on Pana Sankranti, also known as Mesha Sankranti, Maha Vishubha Sankranti and Meru Sankranti.

The sun completely rests on the equator (visubha rekha) only on two occasions- “Mesha Sankranti” and “Tula Sankranti”. On these two days, the duration of day and night remains the same. After this, the sun moves towards the north direction. As India is located to the north of the equator, hence, from the first movement of the sun from Mesha Sankranti, Odisha marks it New Year.

Pana Sankranti is what Vishu is for Kerala, Vaisakhi for Punjab, Pohela Boishakh for West Bengal and Bihu is for Assam. It is only the rituals and vibrancy that vary, the reason for celebration remains almost the same across the country.

Spiritual Bath

It is considered auspicious to take sankranti buda (bath) in nearby rivers and ponds on this day. Devotees chant mantras and worship Surya standing knee-deep in the water. While many observe fast, others have simple vegetarian food.

Sweet Drink

As we know that one tends to feel thirsty during the onset of summer, pana (sweetened water) is offered to friends, relatives and those in need. Pana is made of pulp of bela (wood apple, chena (cottage cheese), nadia kora (coconut gratings) with some seasonings. Hence, the name Pana Sankranti.

Nature Worship

Tulashi worship (Basil plant) is also one of the main rituals performed on this day. It is important for Odia homes to have a tulashi plant in tulashi chaunras (a small temple shaped flower pot) in their front courtyard. A shed is prepared of leaves (chhamundia) over chounra. A small eathern pitcher (theki) is suspended with a rope hanger on the top. The pana or water is filled inside it and the water is allowed to flow drop by drop with the hole at the bottom of the pot. The pitcher is refilled with pana or water during the entire month. It is a symbolic gesture to provide relief to Tulashi plant from the scorching heat

Other Rituals

Celebration also takes place in temples across the state. At Sarala Temple, the priests walk on burning coals. The festival is called Jhaamu Yatra and it ends on Pana Sankranti. The fortnight-long festival is celebrated in the southern part of Odisha. Pitha is the traditional delicacy that is prepared in every household to mark the occasion.  Patua Yatra festival is conducted from April 14 to April 21 at Maa Patana Mangala Temple in Chhatrapada, Bhadrak.

Tribals of southern Odisha also celebrate Meru Yatra festival in which devotees hammer their back with iron rods as an act of penance. Fishermen community across the state end their Chaiti festival on Pana Sankranti.

Shadow of COVID-19

Though due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the grand celebration won’t happen in public places. However, the strict guidelines haven’t curbed the fervour of Pana Sankranti. Despite the low-key celebration this time, pana will be served, pithas will be gorged and rituals will be performed in the age-old traditional way.