Jharsuguda District has a rich and developed cultural heritage. Various fairs and festivals observed round the year for centuries, indicates its cultural and religious richness. Though many of the fairs and festivals are common to other parts of Odisha there are few which are distinct and special. Some of the indigenous festivals of Jharsuguda District are Ranjta Festival, Ratha Yatra of Kukurjunga, Gokulastami Jatra of Rajpur and Makar Ratha Jatra of Belpahar.
Important Fairs and Festival of Jharsuguda district:
Sambalpur was established in the 16th century by the Lt Chauhan king ‘Balram Dev’ a clansman of ‘Prhtivi Raj Chauhan’ the last independent Hindu king of India. During the rule of Chauhan kings, Ranjta festival was started in the capital town of Sambalpur and in vassal states and Jamindaries of Sambalpur. This festival is observed every year on the night of 10th day of Suklapaksha of the month of Aswin. In the district the festival is observed in Jharsuguda town and Kolabira. The descendants of the Jamindars move in procession around the village or town along with ‘Patakhanda’ or (Royal sword). During the royal robs the Jamindar along with his subjects parade in the village with weapons such as sword, muskets, spears, bows & arrows, which remind the valor of the ancestors and the family deity is worshipped the whole day. The common people also take part in this Ranjta Utsav. They demonstrate the martial skills learnt from the erstwhile soldiers of the Jamindars, to the sound of the martial drum-beating. Thousands assemble to witness the festivals.
Famous Ratha Yathra of Kukurjanga:
As per the ancient tradition of Utkal the reigning deities of Puri Shri Jagannath Temple, Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra & Devi Subhadra visit the house of their aunt (Mousimaa) in the respective Chariots namely Nadighosa, Taladwhaja & Darpadalana through the ‘Badadhanda’ on the 2nd day of the bright lunar fort night of the month of Asdha’ and return to Shree Mandir on the 10th day of the bright lunar fortnight. This festival known as Rathajatra is observed through out Odisha and also in many places outside Odisha.
In a small village known as Kukurjanga, 7 kms away from Jharsuguda some specialties are observed in the Rathajatra festival. Here every year, the Rathajatra starts from 2nd day of the bright fortnight of ‘Ashada’, but the Bahuda Jatra continues up to the Ashada Purnima.
In the Kukurjanga village under the erstwhile Rampur Jamindari, the Jagannath temple had been constructed in the 17th Century and since then the Rathajatra festival is organised every by the “Managing Committee”. The Rath of Kukurjangha is a massive structure with 16 wheels.Thousand of pilgrims from the nearby areas assemble at Kukurjangha to witness the gala Rathajatra Festival every year.
Famous Gokulastami Jatra of Rajpur:
Gokulastami Jatra is being observed with pomp & ceremony from the time of the Jamindar of Rajpur who were the descendent of ‘Madhukar Sai’ the king of Sambalpur. The festival symbolizes a folk ceremony signifying an Agrarian culture. The festival also symbolizes the welfare of cattle & other domestic animals used in agriculture. It is observed by the farmers of Rajpur every year on the 8th day of bright fortnight in the month of Margasira. The focal point of this festival is the Jagannath Temple, situated in-front of the palace of the Jamindar of Rajpur. From the evening of the 7th day of bright fortnight of Margasira an idol of Krishna, carrying the mount ‘Goverdhan’ is prepared, which is worshiped in the midst of chanting of Bhajans & Kirtans. At every lane & street of Rajpur village shops and Bazaars are colorfully decorated. At every cross-road many cultural activities are organised through out the night. On the next day the Gokulastami festival continues from the morning till night. All the cattle folk of the village go for grazing since down.
In the meantime rice, dal, curry & other vegetables are cooked in the premises of the village school. In the evening the procession of villagers led by the Jamindar moves around the , the villagers serve the cooked food in leaves for about a distance of half kms. on the road & wait for the cattle to return.
Sabita Rathajatra of Lord Jagannath at Belpahar:
Every YEAR ON THE OCCASION OF Makar Sankranti ‘Sabita Rathjatra’ is organised by the man committee of the Jagannath temple of ‘Gumadera of Belpahar, 22 kms away from Jharsuguda town. On this day the Sun (Sabita) dwells in Makara Rasi, hence the chariot Lord Jagannath of Gumadera has been named ‘Sabita Rath’ or the ‘Sun chariot’. On the day of ‘Makar Sankranti’ at about 10 a.m. 3 deities of Jagananth temple ride on the Sabita Rath & travel to their Mausimaa (Aunt) house. During the festival thousands of pilgrims assemble and take part in this festival, amidst chanting of Bhajan, Kirtan & Dancing. At about 3 p.m. the Gods start their return journey from the Mausimaa temple. At that time Lord Chandrasekhar of Gumadera travels in a separate chariot towards the main road (Badadanda) near Batamangala on the Sabita rath & the chariot of Lord Chandra shekhar which is known as ‘Harihara Bheta’. To witness this unique meeting of the lords a large crowd gathers in the Badadanda. A colorful fair takes place at Gumadera during ‘Sabita Rathjatra’.