Thousands throng Orissa town to witness divine weddings

June 8th, 2008 - 7:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Sambalpur, June 8 (IANS) Thousands of people from as afar as Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh thronged this Orissa town Sunday to participate in the wedding procession of two Hindu deities as part of an annual local festival, organisers said. Every year, residents of Sambalpur, some 317 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar, organise the Sitalsasthi festival during which the wedding of Hindu god Shiva and his consort Parvati is re-enacted.

Like every year, people from the state’s far-flung districts and also from neighbouring states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh came here to attend the festival, Amulya Mishra, one of the organisers, told IANS.

The high point of the festival is the Shiva-Parvati marriage, in which the dieties are represented by their idols and the devotees play the roles of the relatives of Lord Shiva and Parvati, Mishra said.

The people acting as Parvati’s paternal family invite the residents of their locality to a feast as in any Hindu marriage. The marriage takes place amid the chanting of Vedic hymns.

The seven-day festival that began June 3, attracted huge crowds to the city, Mishra said. During the last two days, the decorated idols of Shiva and Parvati riding chariots are taken out in processions to the beats of cymbals and drums, and amidst fireworks and much dancing by devotees.

Innumerable couples offer to perform the role of the parents of Lord Shiva and Parvati, but the organising committee finally selects them, Mishra said.

At least three couples backed by the residents in the city have performed the role of the parents this year, District Collector Pradipta Kumar Patnaik told IANS.

Hundreds of artists, mostly folk dancers from various parts of the country, have come to perform in this year’s festival, he added.

Organisers collect money from the city residents and organise the festival. The role of the administration is that of a facilitator, he said. This year, the organisers are spending about Rs.2.1 million on the festival, according to him.

Historians said King Ajit Singh of the Chowhan dynasty started the festival sometime between 1695 and 1766.

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