Bali Jatra

“Bali Jatra: Navigating the Cultural Odyssey of Odisha’s Celebrated Maritime Festival”

Bali Jatra / Bali Yatra means “Journey to Bali”. Bali is an island of Indonesia and the Bali yatra festival is generally celebrated in the coastal Odisha on the day of Kartika Purnima . Bali Jatra is a cultural event to celebrate past maritime history of Odisha with Java, Sumatra,Bali, Borneo,Siam, Champa, Burma, Ceylon and South East Asia.The celebration of Baliyatra on the Bank of river,Mahanadi,paradeep port and in different parts of Odisha takes us back to remember our ancestral cultural heritage and maritime importance.During this period the Merchants of Odisha also reffered as Sadhabas were undertaking voyages by boats called “Boita”. So Kartika Purnima is an auspicious day for the people of Odisha as the Sailors used to start their voyage to the places like Bali, Java Borneo, Sumatra in Indonesia and Srilanka for trade. Bali Jatra/Bali yatra festival of Odisha has some similarity with festivals of Bali/Thaliand consisting of floating of small replica boats. The period from Asadha to Kartika (July- September) was the season of outgoing voyage and Magha to Baisakha was considered for return voyage. Apart from other places of Odisha, Bali yatra/Bali Jatra is celebrated in the historic city of Cuttack for seven days from Kartika Purnima is more popular.People busy in shopping, also enjoy having famous food items of Odisha and boating on the river Mahanadi. Odisha, known as Kalinga, was in commanding position in the maritime history of India. Brave and adventurous Kalinga sailors were making daring voyages to different parts 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 which the people of Kalinga maintained enduring commercial and cultural relationship were the islands of Java, Sumatra,Bali and Borneo known as Suvarnadvipa or modern Indonesia. Odisha’s glorious maritime past has been proved from materials like Roman coins, Kushan coins, Chinese ceramic sherds found from different parts of Odisha. Maritime power of Kalinga also collected from Raghuvamsa of Kalidas referred to king of Kalinga as the “Lord of Sea”. Sarala Das Mahabharata, Narasimha Sena in Parimala Kavya, Yasowant Das in Tika Govinda Chandra also mentioned words of maritime like Botia, Naha, Sadhava, Sadhavani,Manga, Nabika, Srilanka,Java, Bali, Suvarna Dvipa, Bramhadesh etc.The ancient texts mention “Kalingah Sahasikah” means brave Kalinga people. The geographical position of Kalinga,with several rivers, sheltered ports and the ocean by its sides, suitable for sea missions. Once upon a time the bay of Bengal was known as the Kalinga Sea.It narrates the ancient Maritime mastership of Odisha.Nowadays people of Odisha sail the replica boats to remember their ancient history, which is very unfortunate.The ancient ports of Kalinga were Tamralipti, Palur, Pithunda,Chelitalo, Manikpatna etc. Which were famous for sea voyage from India to South – East Asia. Among the ports of Odisha, Tamralipti (Tamluk in the Midnapore district of West Bengal) served as the main gateway. Ptolemy in the second century A.D. called it as Tamailitis. Sanghamitra, the daughter used this port for journey to Ceylon with the sacred Bodhitree. Fa – Hien in the fifth century A.D. saw a strong maritime settlement of the Buddhists and left for Ceylon from this port he stayed there for two years. In the 7th century A.D. Hiuen –Tsang visited the place.Tamralipti was an important sea port of ancient India. Another important port was Palur on the coast of Bay of Bengal in Ganjam district. The Greek author Ptolemy in the middle of the 2nd century A.D. refers to Palur as a major port of Kalinga. Dantrapura, known in the Buddhist and Jaina text, is perhaps the Palur as ’Palla’ and ‘Ur’ the two words in Tamil indicate the meaning tooth (Danta) and city (Pura). Gerini further refers a port, from where ships sailed to Suvarnabhumi and Suvarnadipa. This port has been identified as Gopalpur, Ganjam. Pithunda was the next important port of Kalinga during the day of Mahavir. Kharavela’s Hatigumpha inscription mentions Pithunda.Pithunda located to south of Pallur near Kalingapatanam. Che-li-ta-lo described by famous Chinese Piligrim Hiuen -Tsang was another major port in Odisha. Manikapatna, located at the mouth of Chilika is regarded as a sheltered port of ancient Odisha. Manikapatna had an important role in maritime trade of Odisha. Abul Fazl, also mentions Manikapatnam as a major port .From the ancient times the people of Kalinga had commercial and cultural relations with Bali, Java, Sumatra,Borneo and Malaya. During 2nd century A.D. Hinduism and Buddhism were two major religions of Suvarnadvipa. The Kalinga influence in Suvarnadvipa is on heaven in 8th century A.D.during Sailendra empire. Relation between Kalinga and Simhala indicates 5th century B.C. Kalinga had also relations with Burma through these sea routes.The Chinese sources narrated close commercial and cultural relations between Kalinga and China.One famous Kalingan scholar Subhakara visited China and translated the Buddhist text Mahavirochana Sutra in to Chinese language. According to Bamanghati coins Kalinga exported goods to Rome and brought the Roman coins in return.According to sources Odia merchants had trade relations with Africa also. Hence Kalinga’s contribution to the cultures of countries in South-East Asia, is quite significant. But in the course of changing time people of Odisha are limited to the toy boats to remember their maritime legacy the Bali jatra/Bali yatra. These toy boats that are usually sailed before sun rise in early morning of Kartika Purnima, with small oil lamps or candles and some symbol of trading goods like betel leaf and nuts placed inside the boats with humming the Boita Bandana song Aa Kaa Maa Boi,Pana Gua Thoi………..



Q1- Why is Bali Jatra celebrated ?
ANS- Bali Jatra is celebrated to remember the maritime history of odisha.

Q2- Which cities are famous for Bali Jatra festival ?
ANS- Cuttack, Paradeep, Bhubaneswar, gopalpur and Jajpur famous for Bali Jatra Festival.

Q3- Bali Jatra Festival which day ?
ANS- Kartika Purnima is the day of Bali Jatra in the month of November.

Q4- What is Baliyatra in English ?

ANS- Bali yatra/Bali Jatra, ‘voyage to Bali’. Baliyatra is a week-long event which begins on Kartik Purnima in the month of November.

By rudramadhab

The Man Who Believes In Sharing Knowledge,Because Knowledge Increases By Sharing. .

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