Sahi Jata: Odisha's time-honoured tradition in Puri district

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | April 26, 2024 IST

Bratai Baral 

The picturesque district of Puri is not only renowned for its breathtaking beaches and the sacred Jagannath Temple but also for its vibrant cultural heritage, encapsulated in the age-old tradition of Sahi Jata. This annual extravaganza, deeply rooted in the folklore and mythology of the land, unfolds during the auspicious month of Chaitra, captivating locals and visitors alike with its colorful pageantry and immersive storytelling Sahi Jata emerges as a celebration of culture, tradition, and community spirit, inviting all to experience the rich heritage of this enchanting coastal district.

 “Sahi Jata is a cherished tradition in Puri that unfolds annually during the month of Chaitra. This vibrant celebration intricately weaves together the narrative of the Ramayana, with a particular focus on the characters of Parsuram and Ravana, who hold special significance in connection to the Jagannath temple. At the heart of Sahi Jata are the magnificent "medhas" – large, ornate structures depicting various characters from the epic. These medhas are worn by performers as they dance through the streets of Puri, enacting scenes from the Ramayana with each step. This fortnight-long festival commences on Ram Navami, marking the auspicious occasion of Lord Ram's birth. Amidst the colorful spectacle of Sahi Jata, one can also witness decorative elephants, horses, and flag bearers accompanied by lively music bands playing drums, trumpets, and other traditional instruments. This celebration beautifully captures the unique culture of Puri district, immersing participants and spectators alike in the timeless tales of devotion and tradition, says Biswa Shanti Tripathy, Jagannath Culture Researcher.

Being asked about the interest of young mass for taking part in the age old tradition, Dipuna Suar, a 24 year old servitor, who got adorned with Raavana attire this time said, “It's heartening to see how many young people are enthusiastically embracing and showcasing the age-old culture of Puri through their participation in Sahi Jata. There's a growing trend of youth actively engaging with our heritage, which fills us with pride. Being part of this unique cultural tradition is indeed a blessing.

  “I personally feel privileged to have portrayed the iconic character of Ravana in Sahi Jata. It's a role of great significance and symbolism within the performance. The dedication required for such a role is immense – performers often spend over a month practising to perfect their portrayal of various characters. The guidance and support of the elders within each Sahi community play a crucial role in nurturing and training newcomers. They take on the responsibility of ensuring that the tradition is passed down with authenticity and skill. This collaborative effort between generations is what sustains and enriches the cultural tapestry of Puri, making Sahi Jata a truly special and cherished event”, said Suar.

 Sahi Jata epitomizes the spirit of unity, cooperation, and communal harmony. It transcends caste, creed, and social hierarchies, embracing all who reside within its fold. Each Sahi (locality) within Puri district boasts its unique identity, yet all are bound by the common thread of devotion and camaraderie. In the face of modernization and urbanization, Sahi Jata stands as a bastion of tradition and resilience. While the winds of change may blow, the spirit of Sahi Jata remains unyielding, adapting to the evolving times while staying rooted in its cultural ethos. Today, Sahi Jata continues to thrive as a vibrant hub of community life, fostering bonds that transcend the boundaries of time and space, says Kumar Bhimsen, a devoted Odissi exponent and a resident of Puri.


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