Baliyatra: Celebrating Odisha’s ancient links with Indonesia and Southeast Asia

Source: The post is based on the article “Baliyatra: Celebrating Odisha’s ancient links with Indonesia and Southeast Asia” published in Indian Express on 18th November 2022

What is the News?

In his address to the Indian diaspora in Bali, Indonesia on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Prime Minister mentioned the annual Baliyatra on the banks of the Mahanadi in Odisha which celebrates the ancient trade relations between India and Indonesia.

Note: This year’s Baliyatra found a place in the Guinness World Records for achieving an impressive feat of origami, the creation of beautiful paper sculptures.

What is Baliyatra?

Baliyatra literally means ‘voyage to Bali’. It is one of the country’s largest open-air fairs organized on the banks of the Mahanadi in Cuttack, Odisha.

Purpose: The festival is organized every year to commemorate the 2,000-year-old maritime and cultural links between ancient Kalinga (today’s Odisha) and Bali and other South and Southeast Asian regions like Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Burma (Myanmar), and Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

The festival starts on the day of Kartika Purnima (full moon day in the month of Kartik i.e October-November).

What is the ancient maritime link between Odisha and Indonesia?

The Kalinga Empire (present-day Odisha) is known for its glorious maritime history. 

Due to the geographical location of Kalinga, this area saw the growth of ports as early as the 4th and 5th century BC. Some of the famous ports, Tamralipti, Manikpatna, Chelitalo, Palur, and Pithunda allowed India to connect with other countries via the sea.

The Kalingas constructed large boats called the ‘Boitas’ to trade with the Indonesian islands. 

Popular items of trade between Kalinga and Southeast Asia included pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, silk, camphor, gold, and jewellery.

The trade-in commodities also led to the interchange of ideas and beliefs. Odia merchants formed settlements in Bali and influenced its culture and ethics. 

As a result of these influences, the Balinese also celebrate Hindu Festivals such as Shivaratri, Durga Pooja, and Saraswati Pooja.

Interestingly, the ‘Masakapan ke Tukad’ festival celebrated in Bali is similar to the Bali Yatra festival in Odisha. Both festivals are celebrated in memory of their maritime ancestors.

Note: The dominance of the Kalingas over the sea routes can be understood from the fact that Kalidasa in his Raghuvamsa referred to the King of Kalinga as ‘The Lord of the Sea’.

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