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Manabasa Gurubar: Odisha's traditional festival of women empowerment, caste equality, social harmony

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WebdeskNov 26, 2021, 02:13 PM IST

Manabasa Gurubar: Odisha's traditional festival of women empowerment, caste equality, social harmony

The legend of Manabasa Gurubar festival that is unique for its origin and traditions. It is based on the ancient scripture 'Laxmi Puran' written by Mahatma Balaram Das. 

 

Manabasa Gurubar is a festival celebrated every Thursday in the month of Margashira in Odisha. In this festival, Goddess Mahalaxmi is the presiding deity. It is believed that the goddess Maa Laxmi comes to every household and removes pain and sorrow by bringing happiness and prosperity. This festival is unique for its origin and traditions. Manabasa Gurubar is celebrated as a symbol of women empowerment and caste equality, and social harmony.

This festival is also known as Margashira Laxmi Puja. The first Manabasa Gurubar of this month started on the first Thursday just right after Kartika Purnima. To celebrate the Manabasa Gurubar, women clean up their houses and decorate them with jhoti chita. 

It's believed that Mahalaxmi visits those households that are clean and decorated with jhoti chita. Moreover, women plaster the front gate with cow-dung or red soil and put chita as decoration near the gate. The footmarks of Mahalaxmi and lotus are marked through the chita. Mana, a traditional bamboo measuring container, is filled to its brink with freshly harvested paddy and offered to Mahalaxmi, and that's how the festival has got its name Manabasa Gurubar.

The legend of this festival is based on the ancient scripture 'Laxmi Puran' written by Mahatma Balaram Das. Moreover, all women read this Laxmi Purana on Thursday throughout the year. 

According to the text, Goddess Laxmi is thrown out of her house, Shri Jagannath Temple, by her husband Lord Jagannath on the advice of his elder brother Balabhadra, as she had visited the house of Sriya Chandaluni, a Dalit woman, after being satisfied with her worship. 

After then Lord Jagannath and Balabhadra started facing problems and had to go through immense suffering. Then they realised the importance of Goddess Laxmi and brought her back home.

From this incident, Lord Jagannath & Balabhadra learned the concepts of caste equality. Food would satisfy without discrimination for the hunger of all, let it be a sweeper, a king, or a God. They realise soon enough her importance, and Laxmi agrees to return to the temple on one condition that there will be no discrimination of caste and creed on earth. The Purana raised her voice against the evil practice of untouchability in society. It stressed the importance of empowering females to resist the male hegemony.

Laxmi Purana touches on three very important issues of society: casteism, cleanliness, and women empowerment. The Purana gives a message that society should recognise that women have their choices and should not be tied down by men's patriarchal beliefs and authority.

For centuries, this story of a woman's will, her power and self-respect, and the tale of equality and social harmony has been recited in every Odia household.

Reciting the Laxmi Purana is a compulsory part of the 'Manabasa Gurubara', and the story has been depicted in movies, TV serials and devotional videos countless times.

The Puri Jagannath Temple does not discriminate against anybody based on caste. This legend has been teaching Odia people social harmony and lessons of cleanliness, devotion, love, and respect for generations.

During the earlier times, when people used to live in kutcha houses, the women cleaned their houses and smeared these walls with cow dung, as it is believed that Goddess Laxmi never visits an untidy house. 

The practice is regarded as the ritual of purity though it has a scientific significance- smearing cow dung keeps harmful and deadly insects, reptiles, and germs away from houses. This is based on religious beliefs also. Varieties of Odia delicious food items are prepared during Manabasa Gurubar. Some of them included in this are Kanika, Manda Pitha, Saga Bhaja, Chaula Kheeri, Chakuli Pitha, Chitau Pitha, Kakara Pitha and Dalma.

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