On a weekend trip to Puri, Priyanka Das is witness to a thrilling boat race. She shares her experience.
If you think of ‘Makar Sankranti’ and ‘sea’, what is the first thing that comes to mind? It is very obvious- taking a bath in the sea on Makar Sankranti, which, according to the popular belief, will bring good fortune.
Every year Makar Sankranti is celebrated across the country on a fixed date with full enthusiasm, followed by the rituals. Regionally, the festival has different names, own structures and traditions. In Gujarat it is known as Uttarayan whereas in Tamil Nadu it is known as Pongal or Uzhavar Thirunal. In Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab it is named as Maghi. Before the arrival of this festival, people start preparing sweets and lip-smacking dishes to celebrate a good harvest. Besides the traditional rituals, every state celebrates the day in a unique style with kite festivals, food festivals and so on.
The ‘sea’ is an unfathomable and mysterious being. It’s always stated that sea never takes anything away, it always returns everything. Puri is one of the sacred places where history is lying beneath the temples and sea. Spiritual people as well as nature lovers visit the place and surroundings regularly. Visiting the 11th century’s Shree Jagannath Puri Temple and taking a bath in the sea to seek blessings are largely popular activities of pilgrims.
This year, apart from this spiritual aspect, the local fisherman organization ‘Mahodadhi Matsyajibi Sangha’ organized a boat race the day before Makar Sankranti on account of Pongal. The sudden arrangement and zeal meant that the localities and the tourists were there to cheer for the sportsmen.
Twenty two members of eleven teams participated in the race. All were in uniform and enthusiastic. The local boys were helping the participants by carrying the boats and holding them against the waves.
After all the arrangements were done, the race was about to start. The participants had to go to a certain point and come back. At last, the race started and the sailors were sailing the boats at their level best. In the beginning, the waves tried to restrict the speed of the boats, but accepted defeat in front of their spirit. All were eager to know the result.
Everyone was shouting and clapping for their favourites. Some of them, like me, were trying to click their best shots.
Meanwhile, the boats started their journey back and all started guessing who would be the winner. One of the boats had edged forward and had a slight lead, with another boat at its heels and all were looking forward to an exciting finish. The leading boat was about to reach the goal, when a gigantic wave suddenly came and pushed them towards the shore. The crowd cheered. They had won!
Later on, the rest of the boats reached and the discussion was about how they could have done better. But there was always a next time and it is all about celebrating the spirit of sportsmanship. All of a sudden, the beach turned golden and the sun was ready to set for a new beginning.
( Photographs by the author)