Bhubaneswar: According to an Odia proverb, 13 major festivals are celebrated in 12 months of the Odia calendar. However, there are many more auspicious occasions and celebrations that take place round the year in the Odia culture.
One such tradition is Prathamastami that celebrates the firstborn child of every family in Odisha. On this day, the first child is called ‘podhuan’.
The maternal uncles, who are labelled as ‘ashtami bandhu’ present them with new clothes along with sweets and delicacies. The family, especially mothers pray for the well-being and long life of the firstborn son or daughter as it is a belief that the first child becomes the flagbearer of responsibilities in the family after the death of parents.
Prathamastami is celebrated in the month of Margasira, on the eighth day of the Krushna Pakhya or dark fortnight. Goddess Sasthi Devi is prayed to on this occasion. The special enduri pitha is made at this time of the year, in every household to commemorate Prathamastami. Made with chhena (cottage cheese), jaggery and grated coconut stuffing, this is the only Odia dish prepared using turmeric leaves.
A pot (called the athaara handi) with its mouth tied with a cloth is mounted on the hearth on which turmeric leaves containing elongated-shaped batter is filled with chenna, jaggery and grated coconut stuffing. It is covered to steam properly and get cooked before being served. Enduri pitha is identified by the quintessential aroma it emanates due to the usage of turmeric leaves.
Prathamastami was also known as Soubhagini Astami. On this day, farmers paid obeisance to thank Goddess Soubhagini for being blessed with children and abundant crop production. Moreover, Prathamastami was also called as Kala Bhairabaastami due to the now-extinct practice of praying to Bhairav to get rid of bad karma.
Lord Lingaraj is said to visit Kapali matha, his maternal uncle’s house on this day. The presiding deities of this matha, Lord Baruneswar and Goddess Banadevi are the maternal uncle and aunt of Lord Lingaraj. It is said that drinking water from the Paapanaasini pond on the premises of this matha redeems devotees of committed sins.
Similar to this Odia tradition, there is a segment of people in Judaism who observe the Fast of the Firstborn where the first sons in the family fast in remembrance of the firstborn children of Hebrews saved from the deaths caused by the Plague of the Firstborn of Egypt.