Nuakhai is a festival celebrated by the Western India, mainly Orissa to welcome the harvesting of agricultural crops. ‘Nua’ means new and ‘Khai’ means food. So this is the occasion to celebrate the collection of new grains and offering to the Goddess.
Researchers suggest that the origin of this festival date back to the period of Vedas when the rishis or sages had talked of panchyajna. These include the five most important activities of an agrarian society. They are sitayajna, pravapana yajna, Prambanan yajna, khala yajna and prayayana yajna. Nuakhai is a step considered in the third phase which involves offering the harvested products to the Goddess.
During the medieval age, Raja Ramai Deo was responsible for promoting this festival in the Sambalpur region. Initially, subjects used to depend on hunting and killing of animals. But he realized that this is not enough to produce food for the rest of the state. So, he went ahead and encouraged a lot of agricultural activities in his land. The ritual is based on nine colors. This festival is even celebrated at a domestic level when goddess Lakshmi is offered the harvested crop or blessings. It’s a festival of joy and abundance. This festival is celebrated across Orissa and also Jharkhand. There is the huge significance of the colors in the festival. The nine steps of the festival are- Beheren, Lagna Dekha, Daka Haka, Sapa Suthara, Ghina bika, Nua dhan khuja, Bali paka, Nua Khai and juhar bhet.
The festival is often compared to Onam or the harvesting festival of the South. India being an agricultural based country encourages various festivals and celebrated in various ways to express gratitude to the Divine God. There is a predominant significance of this festival & that is to pray for more crops to eat and export and to pray for the economy of the country to grow up to the optimum level.