Boita Bandana
Miniature boita (boats) used for Boita Bandana on Kartika Purnima
Official nameBoita Bandana
Also calledDanga Bhasa
Observed byOdias
SignificanceTo commemorate the day when Sadhabas (ancient Odia mariner merchants) would set sail to distant lands of Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka for trade
ObservancesPujas, rituals, float miniature boats as a symbolic gesture of their ancestors' voyage
DateKartik Purnima- Full moon day in the of month Kartika in Odia calendar
Related toLoi Krathong

Boita Bandana (Odia: ବୋଇତ ବନ୍ଦାଣ boita bandāṇa) also known as Danga Bhasa (Odia: ଡଙ୍ଗା ଭସା ḍaṅgā bhasā), is a traditional Odia festival celebrated annually throughout Odisha, India. The name could be translated as "to float ritual boats and worshipping with lighted lamp" and comes from the tradition of making decorated boats, which are then floated on a river as a symbolic gesture of their ancestors' voyage.

Boita Bandana takes place in the early morning of Kartik Purnima which is the full moon day in the month Kartika in the traditional Odia calendar. Since it falls on the lunar phase of the solar calendar, the exact date of the festival changes every year. In the Gregorian calendar, the festival usually falls in the month of November. The festival is a celebrated to mark the commemoration on the day when Sadhabas (ancient Odia mariner merchants) would set sail to distant lands of mainland and insular Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka for trade and cultural exchange.[1]

A major commemoration of this festival called Bali Jatra is held at Gadagadia Ghata of Cuttack on the banks of Mahanadi river.[2]


The name of the festival is a genesis of two words: Boita and Bandana. Where Boita (Odia: ବୋଇତ Boita) refers to larger boats and ships that were built in the ancient Kalinga kingdom during their historic era of maritime trade, while Bandana (Odia: ବନ୍ଦାଣ Bandāṇa) derived from Vandana (Sanskrit: वन्दन) refers to the act of paying homage through prayers, rituals and invocations, hence referring to the homage paid to the ancient merchants who made the voyage.

Its other name Danga Bhasa is similarly the genesis of two words: Danga (boat) and bhasa (float), which literally means 'the floating of boats'.


The origins of this festival descends from an ancient maritime tradition of merchant trade and voyages across the ocean to different regions of Asia, which was well developed in this region known in ancient times as Kalinga. This ancient maritime tradition is preserved through this festival which celebrates the voyages of their ancestors, to Southeast Asian countries, which include mainly present-day Bali, Java, Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia and all the way to Champa region in Vietnam. Local traditions ascribe the origins of the ritual tradition to around 3rd century BC as Kalinga was a well known powerful maritime power and with strong trading links across the oceans especially during the reign of Maurya empire whose rulers coveted the region for its influence.

The voyages were undertaken in vessels known as boitas, by sadhabas or merchant mariners. They set off for months at a time, to trade with people from these distant lands across the ocean in Southeast Asia. Kartika Purnima was considered an auspicious for them to begin their voyage. It was during this time of month as well when the North-East monsoon winds start blowing from November to February, which was favourable for the merchant mariners as the winds would guide the sails of their boats across the ocean leading them to their destination across in Southeast Asia. Hence the 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).[3][4]


The festival is celebrated on Kartika Purnima which is the full moon day in the month of Kartika in the Odia calendar. Kartika month is considered to be the most auspicious and sacred in the traditional calendar. In the early hours of the day, people assemble on the banks of rivers, ponds, tanks and sea shore and float miniature boats made of paper, banana bark, cork etc, decorated with betel nut, betel leaves, flowers and with lit diyas (lamps). The boats are worshipped as per the rituals which is reminiscent of the sea voyage, which was undertaken on that particular day by the merchants of Kalinga known as Sadhabas. The ritualistic floating of boats signifies the symbolic gesture of their ancestors' voyage across the sea.[5] The floating ritual of the boat is accompanied by the phrase:[6]

Aa Kaa Maa Bai
Phrase Transliteration
ଆ କା ମା ବୈ,
ପାନ ଗୁଆ ଥୋଇ,
ପାନ ଗୁଆ ତୋର,
ମାସକ ଧରମ ମୋର ।
ā kā mā bai,
pāna guā thoi,
pāna guā tora,
māsaka dharama mora.

The common interpretation of the phrase is with regards to the offerings of betel nut and betel leaves to the sea brings all the blessings of the month-long worship during the Kartika month and ensures the safe return of family members from long sea voyages. The phrase ଆ କା ମା ବୈ (ā kā mā bai) refers to the four sacred months of Asadha, Kartika, Magha and Baisakha which represents the duration of voyage for ships to Southeast Asian island countries in ancient times.[3][7]



  1. ^ Uday Dokras (October 2020), Kalinga Maritime history, Indo Nordic Author's Collective, retrieved 9 February 2021
  2. ^ Orissa Review - Volume 45. Home Dept, Gov of Orissa. 1988.
  3. ^ a b Lalatendu Das Mohapatra (2004), Significance of Boita Bandana Festival, KM, retrieved 13 February 2021
  5. ^ Kailash Chandra Dash (November 2011), Maritime Trade and Odisha, Orissa Review, retrieved 13 February 2021
  6. ^ Saileswar Sahoo (November 2014), Aa Kaa Maa Bai (PDF), Odisha Review, retrieved 14 February 2021
  7. ^ Annapurna Pandey (2019), Cuttack Bali Jatra: The Grand Festival Becomes Grander, OSAS, retrieved 13 February 2021