The 'Bali Jatra' festival got off to a colourful start in Cuttack city on the auspicious occasion of 'Kartika Purnima' on Tuesday.
The festival is celebrated to mark the day when ancient Odia mariners would set sail to distant lands in south-east Asia for trade and cultural expansion.
Odisha Assembly Speaker S N Patro inaugurated the festival in presence of a galaxy of dignitaries including several ministers, MPs and MLAs. Indonesia's Ambassador to India Sidhato Reza Suryodipuro also graced the inaugural function as a special invitee.
The eight-day extravaganza will continue till November 19 at the Bali Jatra grounds here on the bank of river Mahanadi spread over an area of 50 acres.
As many as 1000 makeshift stalls and nearly 100 vending zones have come up for this years festival, which will showcase ethnic goods along with modern gadgets, food stalls drawn from across the state and outside.
The stalls and vending zones have come up in the two festival grounds along the right bank of Mahanadi river near the Gadagadia Temple Ghat, which was used as a river port in the ancient period.
For the first time this year, the festival is having a maritime corner to exhibit the model of maritime voyage of ancient sea traders of the state, who were travelling to different parts of south-east Asia for trading.
Artificial ponds have been dug up along the river bank, in which the revellers will move from one place to another in boats and relish marine foods of different countries.
Since the festival is also observed to showcase the rich culture of Odisha, at least four pandals have come up at four corners of the fairground which will stage cultural evenings every day for next one week. The district council of culture has made elaborate arrangements for this.
Along with local artists, troupes from across the country and from Bangladesh, Nepal and Indonesia are going to perform here.
The annual Bali Jatra is being celebrated with more enthusiasm this year as the state government has recognised it as a state-level festival to give a boost to trade and commerce, said an official.
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