Saturday, May 30, 2009

Bhubaneswar Wall Paintings - Oriya Culture

Orissa has a rich culture with many unique festivals. With the advent of communication and mixing of population, Oriyas have gradually started celebrating festivals originated from other regions, but the unique oriya festivals are not entirely forgotten. In this post we'll go through a few such unique aspects of Oriya culture depicted in the wall paintings of Bhubaneswar.

Boita Bandana
In ancient times Orissa (then known as Kalinga) was a major sea faring nation. Kalinga had regular contacts with South and South East Asia where in merchants from Kalinga (then called Sadhavas) used to trade spices and other local products with those countries. The sailors used to set sail in the Asadha month (of Oriya calenar, rainy season) and come back by the Baisakha month (summer season). Women from the families of the traveling sailors used to perform rituals for the safe journey of the boats, which was called as Boita Bandana (Worship of the Boats).

In recent times, in rememberance of those days, a festival called Danga Bhasha (floating the boats) is celebrated. People make toy boats from the dry bark of banana plant with wood and paper and float them in rivers and ponds with a lighted lamp inside it. It is remiscent of watching the merchant boats sail away from the ports. In coastal Orissa, particularly Cuttack, a festival called Bali Yatra is also celebrated along the river banks. Tales of 'Taapoi' are also recited.

Bhagabata Tungi
Bhagabata Purana (or Srimad Bhagabata) is one of the eighteen puranas (old tales) of Hindu culture, dealing mostly with tales about lord Krishna. Reciting puranas is a fine art, and the people who took this on as a profession came to be known as Bhagabats. In villages there is usually one family that take Bhagabat recital as their profession. They are often non brahmins and hold their recital in a designated place in the village called the Bhagabata Tungi. The Bhagabata Tungi is also an invaluable source of informal education and philosophical discussions in the village.

Nagara Kirtana
Nagara Kirtana is a ritual where a group of people singing religious songs along with traditional musical instruments go through the village streets in a procession. This is also an illustration of 'Bhakti Yoga' where devotees forget everything else singing songs about God.


  1. Wow, I am surprised to see such a great collections of Orrisa's heritage and esp now depicting the walls of flyovers in and around Orissa. nice blog :)

  2. Its been a while since I visited Orissa and though I have not seen it in person, I am awed by these paintings and your reproduction in an organized form.
    I would like to use your photo of the boita bandana painting photo in a publication as an example of our rich cultural heritage. Do I have you permission to?

  3. @lantana7: Thanks for visiting! Please go ahead and and use these pictures in your publication.

    My goal is to communicate our rich heritage through this post and any publication of the pictures would only augment my purpose. If possible, pls also add a reference to this blog to help others discover and read more.

  4. @latana7: If you need higher resolution images for print purpose, please write back and I'll be glad to provide.

  5. Thanks Tanmay will appreciate high res photos of the Boita paintings.

  6. I am so happy to see write ups on Bhubaneswar Wall Paintings. I am not sure whether you all knows how it all begun.
    We were almost shamed every time we used to have foreign delegates, each time they asked if ``this is what a historic city has to show to others.'' There were many walls in the city that were used as site suitable for goat butchers, garbage dumps, urination spots. Suddenly form out of blue my mind thought about wall painting and immidietly the thought was transferred to Urban Development Secretary. So the first wall painting of BBSR came in front of Nirmal Plaza on way or out from Air Port. Latter on the experience motivated or rather BMC got convinced to transform these walls into good looking paintings. Then there were many owners to take credit but today everyone left these walls again back to square one. However, it was a good lesson for me dealing with Goat Butchers removal in BBSR ! thanks for popularizing the wall paintings !

  7. Thanks Dr. Piyush for telling us how it happened. We are grateful to ideators and executors like you! Are more such paintings being done now?

  8. I'm keeping pic of Boita Bandana as my page's profile pic. In the pic name, I'll keep ur website's address.

    My page:

  9. @Ranjan. Sure. You've got a nice page started there.


Thank you. I'm all ears!