Kali Puja is the main event on Diwali. The Pooja is performed at midnight and pushpanjali (flowers) is offered around two o' clock in the morning. Some people observe a fast on this occasion and partake food only after the Puja is over. Many sweets are made on Diwali, but kheer is a must.
Diwali celebrations in Orissa are much like they are elsewhere in the country. All the houses are beautifully decorated with rows and rows of oil lamps and ornate diyas. Children burst crackers and enjoy the fireworks thoroughly. People also find the time to visit their friends and relatives but celebrate the main Pooja in their own houses so that the Goddess Lakshmi might be pleased and visit their house.
Diwali Traditions in Orissa
The on unique ritual that makes Diwali in Orissa different from what it is in other parts of the country is the practice of calling upon the spirits of one's ancestors. Tall bamboo poles are erected in front of the houses. An earthen pot with small windows, called handi, is tied to this pole with the help of a rope. An earthen lamp is placed inside this and the pot is placed on the top of the pole by pulling the rope.
Jute stems are burnt to light up the dark path that the spirits of the ancestors take back to heaven.
In the evening, the members of the household gather together just after dusk. A Rangoli of a sailboat is made on the ground. The boat has seven chambers. Over the drawing of each different chamber several items are kept - cotton, mustard, salt, asparagus root, turmeric and a wild creeper. Over the central chamber are the offerings meant for prasad. Perched over the prasad is a jute stem with a cloth wick tied around the edge. It is lit at the beginning of the Puja. All members of the family hold a bundle of jute stems in their hands. Beside the Rangoli, a mortar and pestle and a plough are also kept and worshiped.
In the olden days, animal sacrifice was performed in front of the goddess. Today, a gourd is cut to symbolically represent the animal sacrifice. After the Puja and offerings, the family celebrates Diwali festival by bursting crackers. When crackers were still a monopoly of the urban areas, folks in the rural areas lit jute sticks called kaunwaria which would burn for hours. Nowadays, crackers being available in every nook and corner, kaunwarias are lit only symbolically. In Orissa too, Diwali remains the festival of lights and sweets. Earthen lamps are lit everywhere and sweets are offered to friends and relatives.