Baliyatra Festival in Odisha marks the culmination of all the religious festivities held in the month of Karthik, which is considered the most sacred month in a calendar year. It is held on the full moon day in November–December which is celebrated all over Odisha as Karthik Poornima, which commemorates Odisha’s ancient maritime legacy.
Baliyatra Cuttack Utsav is a hugely popular fair held on the banks of Mahanadi River in the fort area of Cuttack city from where the traders of Odisha (Sadhabas) used to take voyages, along the sea trade route, on huge boats called Boita. To celebrate the glory of the ancient times, the people in Cuttack as well as of the rest of Odisha sail small boats made out of cork, coloured paper and banana barks etc in the river and water bodies. The ritual of launching said tiny paper boats lit by lamps placed inside it is known as Boita Bandana. One can marvel at the spectacle of thousand lamps floating in the rivers and water bodies.
In the city of Cuttack and other places huge images of “Kartikeswar” the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati (known as the God of war as he led the army of ganas against the demons) are built and worshiped. At night, they are taken out in procession and are immersed in the river Mahanadi near a Shiva temple. Exactly at this place a big fair known as “Bali Yatra” is held for about seven-eight days. There are two schools of thought regarding coinage of the name of the festival. Some are of opinion that on this day the Sadhabas were sailing off to Bali and therefore, the name. Some others believe that `Sri Chaitanya’ the great Vaishnavite saint of Bengal on his way to Puri landed on this day at Cuttack after crossing the sand-bed (i.e. “Bali”) of the river Mahanadi.
It is festival where lakhs of People congregate at the fairground where innumerable varieties of goods are bought and sold. People also enjoy boating with friends and family in the moonlit night. Over the year, in sociological parlance, this huge market with commodities and appliances signifying traditional crafts to modern amenities and appliances, signifies rural-urban continuum.