Khanda Puja of Odisha by Khetriyas(Kshatriyas)

@ Sundaray Shaahi, Babaja, Cuttack, Odisha

Khanda Puja is the Shashtra Pujan(Weapons Worship) in Odisha. It is one of the most ancients shastra Pujan in India by Khetriyas(Kshatriyas in Odisha)

The Khanda Puja (Swords & Weapons Worship) of Odisha is one of the longest surviving martial festivals since ancient times in India. It is celebrated in a unique and at its original way by the Khanda Puja (Sword & Arms Worship) In Odisha by Kshatriyas communities, pronounced and termed as “Khetriyas” in Odisha. The martial legacy is still carried out in a ceremonial form via its Khetriya(Kshatriya) community natives and their sub-castes.

Clan wise few rituals differ which is done secretly, only a Khandayat will know how to perform it and can’t fake it. The Suryavamsha Khandayats will do a Suryavamsha Karma while the chandravamsha and Nagavamsha Khandayats do their Respective karma which is brief. It NOT known to public just like the karma of brahmins in order to avoid corruption of

The Ritual in Brief

Typical Khanda Puja in Odisha

The ritual of Khanda Puja starts on the day of Saptami of Aswin month, which is the 7th day of Navratra. The Khetriyas/Kshatriyas in Odisha take out their traditional weapons, all the weapons such as the “Khanda”, “Patta”, “Faasa” etc are washed in turmeric water and placed on a “Singhasan”. A Kalash and Diya(Indian Lamp with ghee) is placed followed by a brief “Yajna”.

This ritual is carried out for the next 4 days till Dusshera, the lamp is lighted continuously for the next 4 days, the Karta of the Puja looks over the Diya for the next 4 days and makes sure it is lighted continuously.

On each day a specific yajna is conducted for the worship of the weapons. On the day of Dusshera, which is the last day of the Khanda Puja, the final Yajna is performed by the Utkal brahmins. The Khetriyas/Kshatriya village natives offer the Pushpanjali to the weapons. Then the brahmins offer the Khetriya natives tilak and flower garland and bless them.

Brief History

As per the Markandey Puran, Durga Puja in Eastern India originated from Kalinga(present-day Odisha), by the King Surath of Chedi/Chaitra Mahameghavahana Dynasty. He brought the Devi mahatma possibly from the Northern Kshatriya counterparts as many northern dynasts were strong Shakta followers. In the 11th Century, The Suryavamshi Ganga Dynasty of Kalinga started the present form of Durga Puja celebrations in which the cities like Cuttack, Jajpur, Khurda and Jagatsignhpur used to be decorated on the donation of traders and armies, the Army of the Gajapati used to perform public march on elephants and horses. In the 1757 century, Nabakrishna Deb started the “ceremonial” display of Durga Puja in Shobhabazar Rajbari, Kolkata.

During the Suryavamshi Khandayat Emperor “Purushottam Deva Routaray” written a book “Durgostav-Chandrika” & described the complete rituals of Dashahara of his time. Contrary to the rest of India, Dashahara in Odisha was completely a war festival & all Khandayat chiefs used to prepare their Armies for future expeditions. In Odisha military culture the months between Ashwin to Jyestha was considered as the ideal time for the military campaign in foreign lands. The Day of Ashwin Purnima was dedicated to Lord Kartikeya as he was the chief General of Devas.

Traditional Khandayat Weapons

As noted by Dr Mayadhar Mansingh “In the early hours of the night, the small villages, the drummers and musicians of the village enthral the environment. In a long year, the sound of musical instruments awakens Khandayats for a few short moments. Some Khandayats come out With their Swords, Axe, Spear and Sticks and gather in front of the Gramdevati. Coming out of the bar at the beginning of the campaign, sacrifices are made for the satisfaction of the goddess .there was a time when the swords of the Khandayats used to quench his thirst by enemy’s blood“.

The Ending of the Puja

In the evening, the courtyard of the temple is shaken by the roar of the Khandayats. Having inspirations from the Khetriyas/Khandayats in Odisha, Nowadays Brahmins, Vaishyas and other Communities worship their traditional instruments on the occasion of Dussehra.

Contributors:

Credits:
- Bishnu Deb Routray, Asst Prof, History, Ravenshaw University
- Secretaries & Volunteers, Utkal Khetriya Mahasabha
- History of Khandayats - Research team on Odisha's Martial history
- Special Mentions : Sangram Keshari Sundaray, Dibya Ranjan Routray, Pankaj Kumar Swain, Sugyan Balasamanta, Sai Beura, Rajesh Beura

References:
- Markandeya Purana 
- Swaraj By Dr Mayadhar Mansingh
- Utkal Prasang : Shaktira Avatar Mahishamardini By Aminilu Ray 
- Nandakishore Granthabali by Palli Kabi Nandakishore Bal 
- Utkal Prasang : Odia Sanskruti re Durgapuja by Niranjan Pradhan 
- Odisha Review : Antiquity of Durga Puja in Odisha by Om Prakash 
- Ama Parba Parbani by Bhagban Mohanty 
- Odisar Sanskrutika Itihas , Volume 4  (1100 AD -1578 AD ) by Dr Satyanarayan Rajguru 
- Indian Culture and Cult of Jagannatha by Pandit Binayak Mishra
- Utkal Prasang : Odisha re Bibhinna Dharmara Prachar O Prasar by Himadri Tanaya Mishra
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