Balangir, Sept. 6: Sonepur is all set to celebrate Lankapodi, a festival that is observed on the new moon day of the lunar month of Bhadraba to mark the epic event of Lord Hanuman’s raid on the kingdom of Ravana. The festival, to be held on Wednesday, celebrates Hanuman’s act of setting Lanka on fire.
From early morning, boys pull wheeled toys of horses and elephants on the streets. Moreover, toys of wooden cows take the form of Kamdhenu, the magic cow with a woman’s head that fulfils wishes. The artisans of Maharana community make such toys. Artisan Ananta Maharana said that prior to Lankapodi he gets busy to make these wooden toys.
“The wooden toys are of great demand during this fest. It is the time when we make some good business,” he said.
During the occasion Sonepur remains pre-occupied with the clay images of Lord Hanuman. The idols are purchased either in the bazaar or from Kumbharpada, the locality of potters. Internationally acclaimed terracotta artisan Lokanath Rana said he had been making the Hanuman idols for half a century. He inherited the profession from his father. “Earlier we used to make the Hanuman idols giving it a traditional look. However, now we have adapted to the contemporary demands. We dust some idols with powdered mica, which gives these a sparkling, slightly glittered skin. Some idols are made smaller with legs of solid clay rather than hollow tubes,” Rana said.
At the fall of night, the tails of the idols are wrapped with old clothes. Then a dish or container is attached to the tip and filled with oil or kerosene. The tail is then set afire. Children pull a rope attached to their toys and roll these on the streets with pride.
“Countless flames are visible during the night of this festival. In fact, at times it indeed creates an illusion of Lanka burning. As the night wears on, acrobats and gymnasts perform on streets. The sense of adventure and festivity is contagious,” said historian Sudam Naik who has authored several books on Sonepur history.
The idols are finally taken to the courtyard of the temple of goddess Somalai and broken early in the morning following Lankapodi. “This follows a pan-Indian pattern of invoking the supernatural presence to inhabit in a clay idol and after the ritual destroying the inert body,” Naik said.