By Saba Purkar Project Research Associate, Maritime History Society (MHS)
In 1992, The Indian Navy with the Odisha State Government planned a Bali voyage known as “Kaling Bali Yatra” to celebrate Boita Bandana and retrace the ancient sea trade route between Odisha and Indonesia. This activity was a grand gesture aimed at rediscovering the socio-economic and socio-cultural ties between the two nations.
Situated on the eastern coast of India, Odisha is gifted with a natural harbour of about 600km stretching from the Ganges on the north and Godavari and Krishna on the south which has played a crucial role in India’s maritime trade and history. The festival of Boita Bandana, popularly known as Bali Yatra in Odisha, is a traditional festival emerging out of Odisha’s Maritime past. The name itself conveys a journey to Bali. During the festival, all women and girls float boats made of ‘Shole’ or bark of plantain tree, with flowers, leaves and light lamps inside. This ritual was performed for the safe return of the sailors from their voyage on the day of Kartika Purnima. This festival is celebrated around the end of October and the beginning of November. The same ritual is observed in Bali.