There is rich traditional worship of ‘Shakti’ in the form of Devi Puja in Orissa, since time immemorial. The power and vitality of Shakti is referred in Puranas, Vedas, Upnishads and minor spritual texts.
“Ya devi Sarvavhuteshu Shati Rupena Sansthita
Namastasayee Namastasayee Namastasayee Namonamah”
The slayer of the mighty demon Mahisasura, Maa Durga was born out of the celestial divine power of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahadeva. She is a source of concentrated divine energy, omnipotent all, omniscient Jyotirmayee Maa Durga. Thereare many folkloric legends attached to the cosmic force of Mahisasuramardini (another name of Maa Durga). All castes and religions with great enthusiasm and fervour popularly observe this festival and is celebrated for almost 16 days. It starts from the eighth day of lunar fortnight to ninth day of solar fortnight of Aswhin month. On the eighth and ninth day, Dussahera is celebrated by worshipping the Maa Durga and in some parts of country by offering animal sacrifice. On Vijayadasami (tenth day), the goddess Durga is prayed to remove all evil spirits and restore peace and happiness in the world.
The holy scriptures testify that on this day Rama killed Ravana and his victory was celebrated. Therefore, it is also called ‘Vijaya Dasami’. (Victorious tenth day). In Orissa it was, therefore, a military festival. In the villages the agriculturists worship their implements. The Khandayats or the Paikas bring out their rusty swords, spears and other weaponry to clean and worship. The Paika Akhadas are held in which young men indulge in stylised military dances, display of sword-fighting and various acrobatic stunts. People in general polish their instruments of profession at this time and also clean, plaster and whitewash their houses. Beautiful flower-designs are painted on both sides of the doors.
Now-a-days idols of Durga are worshipped for five days, especially in towns and cities. This tradition of idol worship has been set by the Bengalis who dominated during the time of the British rule in Orissa. Especially in the city of Cuttack a large number of idols of Durga and Mahadev are worshipped in profusely decorated pandals. After Dasami all the idols are then taken in procession for immersion in the river Kathjori. Many people come to the city from villages to watch the festival.