Maha Bishuba Sankranti is the first day of the month of ‘Baisakh’ as well as the solar year. This is also called “Jala Visuva Sankranti”. In Odisha it is known as “Pana Sankranti”, named after ‘Pana’, the main drink offering specially prepared on this occasion, specially Bela Pana. Pana Sankranti, Maha Vishuva Sankranti, also known as Mesha Sankranti and Pana Sankranti, is celebrated as the Odia New Year.
The day marks the beginning of the New Year in the traditional Hindu Solar Calendar. On this day the sun enters the sidereal Aries or Mesha Rashi. It generally falls on 14/15 April. The spring season is at its zenith during this period, and the summer is approaching. The date is calculated as per Sidereal astrology.
According to the rituals, the Odia New Year is started from this day, which is widely popularly known as “Pana Sankranti”. All over the country this day is considered auspicious and is celebrated with social, cultural and religious performances.
In Odisha, this festival is observed with great sanctity in various forms. On this day ‘Chhatu’ (grinded corn powder), ‘Pana’ (sweet water), umbrellas, fans (made out of palm-leaves or bamboo-strips) and ‘Paduka’ (wooden slippers) are offered to Brahmins and the poor people. All these are the remedies for the scorching Sun. Water as the vital source of life becomes more symbolical in another ritual of the festival.
History Behind Mahavishuba Sankranti :-
Specific reasons as to why the Vishuva Sankranti is considered as the first day of the solar year. On only two occasions around year, Mesha Sankramana and Tula Sankramana, the Sun fully rests on the equator. On these two dates, the length of days and nights are equal.
But in case of a sidereal zodiac, as used in Indian solar calendars, it has no connection with the equinoxes. Hence, the length of the Indian solar calendars is longer than the actual tropical solar year. The odia solar month of Mesha starts from this day.
There are specific reasons as to why the Visuva Samkranti is considered as the first day of the solar year. It is only on two occasions i.e. “Mesha Samkranti” and “Tula Samkranti” that the Sun fully rests on the equator and on these two dates the length of days and nights remain equal.
After Mesha Samkranti the Sun moves in the northern direction to our side as our country is situated to the north of the equator. It is, therefore, from this day of first movement of the Sun from Mesha Samkranti that the New Year is counted. All over the country this day is considered auspicious and is celebrated with social, cultural and religious performances.
This festival is observed with great sanctity in various forms. On this day ‘Chhatu’ (grinded corn powder), ‘Pana’ (sweet water), umbrellas, fans (made out of palm-leaves or bamboo-strips) and ‘Paduka’ (wooden slippers) are offered to Brahmins and the poor people. All these are the remedies for the scorching Sun.
Water as the vital source of life becomes more symbolical in another ritual of the festival. Above the ‘Tulasi’ plant-, which is a must in every Hindu household of Orissa, a shed is prepared with branches of green leaves and painted pitcher of smaller size filled with water is suspended with a rope hanger.
Beneath it a small piece of straw is fixed to a hole in the pitcher through which water is drained drop by drop on the Tulasi plant. This is called ‘Basudhara’ (the stream of the earth). Here, Tulasi plant symbolises the human life and it is to be saved from the scorching sun by resting in the shed and taking enough water.
How to Celebrate Meru Sankranti or Pana Sankranti :-
This festival is observed widely in some form or other in the coastal areas, in some towns and villages of other areas as a rigorous ritualistic observance. Deeply connected with the mass religious culture of Odisha, a number of other festivals otherwise known as “Jhamu Yatra”, “Hingula Yatra” or “Patua Yatra”, “Danda Yatra”, “Uda Yatra” etc, which originated as ritualistic observances of “Chaitra Parba” culminate in the Bishuba Sankranti and make a grand finale of the whole celebration.
Danda nacha is the most widely practiced rich festival in the western and southern part of Odisha. This is performed during the festival observed by the Kaibartas in the month of chaitra from full moon day to eighth day of Vaisakha during the month of March and April and it continues till Bisuba Sankranti. This day People used to enjoy with Chaidya Nacha.
This festival is celebrated to show honour of their caste daity Kali Maa. The participants in a Danda nacha invoke the blessings of Lord Shiva to get blessed by a child, to fulfill certain ambition, to get rid of sickness, seeking happiness in life and a good harvest.
Also read about Jajpur Chandi Mandir.