Tuesday 2 April 2019

Odisha And Bali Connection

Odisha, erstwhile Kalinga, has a rich and ancient cultural and civilizational link with Bali, Indonesia, and other South East Asian nations like Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia etc.
Odisha Handloom - "Orissa Ikat" Saree with boat
Every year on Kartik Purnima in November, the Odias i.e. the people of Odisha, observe a traditional festival. As per the age-old custom, they float small paper-boats or boats made of other materials with earthen lamps and flowers. The water-bodies of Odisha- rivers, lakes and ponds are filled with hundreds of boats commemorating Odisha’s glorious maritime trade. This is called “Boita Bandana”.
In Odia language, “Boita” means boat. 
Entrance to the Bali Jatra ground at Cuttack
The traditional vessels in which the 'Sadhabas' (sea traders) sailed off are called Boita. Thus, the Odias celebrate Kartik Purnima day as Boita Bandana, a ritual reminiscent of the maritime heritage of Kalinga. This marks the festival- Bali Jatra/Bali Yatra that means a voyage/journey to Bali. This tradition continues even after so many centuries.

Boita Bandana is also depicted in the Pattachitra – paintings of Odisha.
Pattachitra artist, Ms. Saudamini Swain with her 'Boita Bandana' art.
The Bali Jatra is one of the biggest fairs in India that is held on the banks of the river Mahanadi in Cuttack, the previous capital of Odisha. There is a Maritime Museum in Cuttack.

Kalinga’s ancient trading ports like Tamralipti have been mentioned by many explorers like Ptolemy, Fa-Hien, Hiuen Tsang etc. Even the Buddhist Jataka texts make have references of voyages from Tamralipti to many nations for trade and missionary activities. 

There is mention in local folktales too. As per a popular Odia story, Ta’poi, once upon a time, seven brothers left for foreign lands for trade. They left their beloved sister, Ta’poi, under the care of their wives. Except for the youngest sister-in-law, the rest tortured Ta’poi. When the bothers returned, they were very angry and punished their wives for mistreating Ta’poi.

Archaeological excavations and findings and stone carving of ships in temples etc are proof of ancient Odisha’s maritime trade. Kalinga's naval connection has culturally impacted these countries. Hindu culture of Bali in Indonesia and Odisha in India still have much in common.
In Odia language, “Bali” means sand. As Odisha had naval connection with so many nations including Bali, Bali Jatra’s scope is wide. More research is needed.
There is so much more waiting to be discovered.

B for- Bali, Boat, Bali Jatra, Boita Bandana, Buddhist
I am blogging related to Odisha, India for the #AtoZChallenge this year.

Also linking with - ABC Wednesday- M for Maritime


  1. Wow! loved your deatils, I have never been to Odisha but your post makes me curious to explore more about it.

    1. Dance form of Odisha and Bali having similarities...

  2. So many wonderful, and colourful traditions. - Margy

  3. Beautifully penned down.very informative.

  4. I was very curious about similarities or the common features of odisha sculptures with those South East Asian countries you have mentioned. I was searching for any connection or reason on internet and this process Google directed me to your this blog. Thanks for these valuable information , your blog has backed my intuition .

    1. Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your thoughts.
      Glad you liked my post.
      Yes, Odisha- known as Kalinga in the past- has a rich shared history with many nations especially with the South East Asian nations. "Kling" and "Kalinga" references can be found even today.
      I believe much is yet to come to light. There needs to be more research and documentation.
      You may like to read some more Odisha maritime trade posts on my blog.
      Please do share your name and place. Keep visiting and reading :)


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