| Children with a Hanuman idol in Sonepur. Telegraph picture |
Balangir, Aug. 28: Sonepur is celebrating Lankapodi, a festival that commemorates Lord Hanuman’s raid on the kingdom of demon king Ravana.
Local residents purchase a hanuman idol, either in the market or from Kumbharpada, the locality of potters. The potters get busy making clay models of Hanuman from a month before the festival.
Internationally-acclaimed terracotta artist Lokanath Rana said he had been making Hanuman idols for half a century since he had been trained by his father.
“Earlier, we used to make Hanuman idols in the traditional style, but now we have adapted to the demands of time. We make some monkey images with powdered mica, which gives them a sparkling, slightly glittered skin. Some are smaller, with legs of solid clay rather than hollow tubes,” Rana said.
At nightfall, the tails of the idols are wrapped with old clothes and a container attached to the tip is filled with oil and set on fire.
Children would pull a rope attached to the idols and bring them on the streets.
“With so many burning Hanuman idols across the town, one would get an illusion of Lanka burning. As the night wears on, acrobats and gymnasts perform on the streets. The sense of adventure and festivity is contagious,” said historian Sudam Naik, who has authored several books on Sonepur’s history.
The monkey images would be finally taken to the courtyard of the temple of Goddess Somalai and broken early the next morning. “This follows a pan-Indian practice of invoking supernatural presence to inhabit a clay image and then, after the dramatic ritual, destroying the inert body,” Naik said.
Chief organiser of the Subarnapur Lankapodi Mahotsav Committee Shyama Om Prasad Mishra said they were going to organise several programmes to observe Lankapodi.
“We are organising essay competitions for the students on Lankapodi and making of terracotta Hanuman in traditional style for the terracotta artists. This year we have introduced a fancy dress competition in which the participants will present themselves as Hanuman,” he said.
Mishra said eminent terracotta artisan Chaitanya Rana would be honoured this evening during the celebration of Lankapodi.
“We have invited eminent tie-and-dye artist Padmashree Chaturbhuj Meher as the chief guest of the function. He will hand over the award to Rana,” Mishra said.