Sitala Sasthi Festival: Rituals For Divine Wedding:: Sital Shasthi festival strictly prevalent among the people of western Odisha. It is believed that Lord Shiva became furious after Jagara Amavasya and he was cooled down only by marriage with Parvati. So, this marriage festival of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati is called Sital (cool) Shasthi and is held on the sixth day of the bright fortnight of the month of Jyestha.
Since the days of yore, Odisha has been a seat of Shaivism. Bhubaneswar itself has about five hundred Shiva shrines dating back from the 6th-7th century A.D. In the early temples of Bharateswar and Parsurameswar, there are elaborate scenes of Shiva’s marriage with Parvati. It is therefore believed that this festival of Shiva’s marriage is very ancient and is being carried down through centuries past.
In almost all the villages of Odisha, there are temples of Lord Shiva, Parvati, and Vishnu. During this festival, the elderly of the village act as the parents of the bride (Parvati) and the bride-groom (Shiva), and all formalities of an Odia marriage are observed.
In analogy with the society-marriages where somebody acts as a mediator, here, Vishnu, the God Himself takes the role. At first, a proposal (written on palm-leaf) is sent from the bride’s side to the bridegroom’s father through Sevak who also carries Mahaprasad (Food offering of Lord Jagannath), coconut, betel nut, and a piece of new cloth as prevalent in marriage customs.
With the Lord goes a procession of torch-bearers, drummers known as Dhol Nissan, and pipers. Thereafter, on the fifth day (Panchami) at past mid-night, Goddess Parvati goes to the temple of Lord Shiva in a procession where the marriage takes place with all Vedic formalities.
After the marriage is over a feast is arranged in which the Sevayats from both sides participate. The real festival takes place the next day in the night when the marriage procession is taken out with pomp and grandeur. The images or idols of Parvati and Vishnu are carried in a richly decorated palanquin (vimana) heading the procession. Shiva, seated on a bull follows them on a bullock cart.
At crossroads and important places the procession halts and there is a lavish display of fireworks, dancing, drumming, and various other kinds of merry-making.
Though this festival is held in the temples of Loknath at Puri, Amarnath at Cuttack, Lingaraj at Bhubaneswar, and in almost all the villages & cities in Odisha, it is observed on a grand scale at Sambalpur where two groups exhibit rare enthusiasm to organize it with a keen competitive spirit. During the procession, lavishly decorated tableaus are brought out.
Traditional and local dance and music parties are engaged to move with the procession.
Varieties of fireworks are displayed. Each group tries its utmost to excel the other in every respect. The procession terminates at the respective temples and the festival ends.
On this day the town of Sambalpur wears a festive look. Thousands of people congregate from different parts of the district to witness the deities in procession. In the Puranas, it has been said that one is expiated of all sins if he sees the Gods in procession. Therefore, there is a natural attraction for the common villagers to see the mounted deities in procession.
Also Read: Festivals observed at Jagannath Temple Puri
Image Courtesy: Odisha Tourism