Besides on the fullmoon day of Kartika (October-November) both men and women of Odisha take their bath in rivers and ponds early in the morning and float down miniature boats made of the barks of plantain trees or of paper with brettle and brettlenut with lamp burning inside the colorful paper boat.
This custom appears to the symbolic of the voyages which is generally launched in the month of Kartika (religious & Holy month) when the rainy season is over. It is famous as “Kartika Purnima” or “Panchuka Purnima” in Odisha.
On Baliyatra festival of Kartika Purnima as Oriya lyric is usually recited i.e.
Aa-Ka-Ma-Bai connotes the month of Asadha, Kartika, Margasira and Baisakha of Odia Calender. While the period from Asadha to Kartika (July –September) was the season of outgoing voyage and Magha to Baisakha was considered to be the season of return voyage. Apart from other places of Odisha, Baliyatra is celebrated with pomp with grandeur in the historic city of Cuttack and Paradeep. It is famous as “Boita –Bandana Festival”. This has become an annual ritual which reminds us of the memory of the hundred and hundreds of Sadhavas(merchants) who used to sail to the far off countries to seek wealt and commerce and transformed Odisha into a rich and prosporous as well as powerful kingdom7. This maritime history provides an ample opportunity to the scholars to study in the foreign trade potential of Odisha since time immemorial.
“Boita lagila jai Simhala Dipare,
Sadhaba jubatimane ati pramodare
Gale Boita Bandai
Arghyathali kare Sarbe hulahuli Dei”.
-Upendra Bhanja (Labanyabati)
Causes of Maritime Trade:
From the early times the people of India moved to different parts of the globe for the prospering of economic purpses. Odisha or Kalinga was no exception to it. There were several factors for the prosperous maritime trade of Ancient Odisha. These factors are:
The Geographical location of Odisha was the first and foremost factor for its prosperous maritime trade. It is geographically situated on the shore of the Bey of Bengal and also intersected by number of navigable rivers like Mahanadi, Kathajodi, Brahmani, Baitarani, Budhabalanga, Kushavadra, Rusikulya, Bansadhara etc.
Therefore it had all the privileges of developing ports and conducting over seas trade. Perhaps, the most important causes of the Kalinga war (261B.C) was Ashok’s desire not only to gain control over Odisha (Kalinga) but also to capture the Odishan ports along with its maritime routes through which the Kalinga sahasikahs indentified as the Kalinga Sadhavas, carried on extensive maritime trade and made Kalinga not only prosperous but also a formidable power in the contemporary Indian History.
The existence of a rich trading community known as Sadhavas or honest merchants or traders in Odisha was another factor for its prosperous maritime activities. The sadhavas of Odisha were very much courageous, ambitious and brave people to conduct overseas adventurous journey to different far off Islands like Java, Sumatra, Bornio, Bali, Burma etc. in order to bring wealth and commerce.
Ancient Odisha was famous for many natural ports like, Tamralipti, Pithunda, Cheli-talo & Palur8. Trade was conducted with the different foreign countries from these ports. So the existences of these famous sea ports was an important factor for the Odisha’s flourishing maritime trade.
The availability of costly jewels, gems, stones and valuable forest products and Kalinga elephants of Odisha was another factor for the Odisha’s maritime trade. (Kautilya’s Arthasastra & China pilgrim Hiuen-Tsang)
The granary of the land “Odisha” surplus agricultural products also another factor for the maritime trade of Odisha. Rich cultural heritage of Odisha also another factor for the maritime trade.
Lastly Political patronage was another factor that helped the growth of Odisha’s prosperous maritime trade. The famous dynasties like the Chedi, the Maratha, the Sailodbhava, the Bhaumakara, the Somavamsi Gajapati ruled over Odisha very successfully for long period. They were not only generous but also encouraged the maritime traders. Not only for the benefit of their subjects but also to encourage trade and commerce, they constructed roads and dug canals.