Kartika is the holiest of all the months in Hindu lunar calendar and includes many religious events like 'Habisha', 'Baluka Puja', 'Panchuka', 'Kartika Purnima', 'Boita Bandana' etc. Kartika month usually overlaps with the months October & November in the English calendar. This is the most awaited month of the year for Odias, particularly widows and women. Kartika Brata is observed for the whole month and important rituals in this month include partial fasting and reading the Kartika Mahatmya from Padma Purana. Large number of pilgrims (particularly widows and women) came to Puri to serve Lord Jagannath and carry out their Kartika Brata. According to Hindus, someone who undertakes Kartika Brata will get happiness in life because this is the most favorite month for both of the Supreme Gods, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The most meritorious day of this month is the full moon day i.e. Kartika Purnima.
The month of kartika has following significance
Most the devotees undertaking Kartika Brata take pre-dawn bath and visit Lord Jagannath Temple daily in early morning during the morning Mangal Arati. Every day they take food only once in the afternoon which is known as 'Habisha' and devotees undertaking Kartika Brata are also known as 'Habisiali'. They either take the Mahaprasada from the Jagannath temple throughout this month or prepare their own Habisha food with allowed vegitables and pulses. Those who carry out Kartika Brata don't eat a number of vegetables such as brinjal, sweet potato, different varieties of gourds, a number of pulses and other leafy vegetables for the whole month. Another important ritual of this month is the 'Baluka Puja' in which devotees worship the holy Tulasi tree or Basil tree as the image of Lord Jagannath.
The last five days of the Kartika month is considered highly auspicious and is known as 'Panchuka'. During these five days large number of devotees came to Puri and visit Lord Jagannath Temple daily. The Jagannath Temple administration has rescheduled the daily rituals of Lord Jagannath Temple to help the Habisiali and to facilitate darshan of the Lords. Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, Goddess Subhadra and Lord Sudarshanaare dressed in five different Veshas (attires) each day during Panchuka.
Five Different Veshas of Lord Jagannath during Panchuka
The Kartika Brata would complete on the 'Kartika Purnima' day. Kartika Purnima is the last day of the Kartika month as well is the last day of Panchuka. Both moon days (full moon and no moon) of the month of Kartika are auspicious. Kartika Amavasya (no moon day of Kartika) is celebrated as 'Deepavali' or 'Diwali'. Kartika Purnima (full moon day of Kartika) is celebrated as Deva Diwali (Diwali of Gods), this is the day when Gods celebrate the victory of good over evil. On Kartika Purnima day, devotees take holy dip in Pancha Tirtha of Puri before visiting Lord Jagannath Temple. Kartika Purnima is associated with following important events:
Another event that takes place in Kartika Purnima morning is 'Boita Bandana'. In Odia language 'Boita' means 'Boat'. This reminds the maritime glory of Odisha state. In old days the Odisha sea traders used to sail off to distant islands like Java, Sumatra, Ceylon etc. for trade by boats (Boita). The women of the sea traders community gave them see off before start of their journey. The days are now gone, but the memories are still alive. To remember this past history, now pilgrims float tiny handmade boats made out of cork, colored paper and trunk of the banana tree in nearby water bodies. As per the tradition, devotees equipped their handmade boats with ritual items like camphor, ghee lamps, betel leafs, flowers and sent them into the sea along with their prayers. This is called Boita Bandana. It was a wonderful sight to watch, all these small and beautiful boats along with their lights, flowers and other offerings sailing into the sea and swallowed up by the gigantic waves. Thousands of devotees came to Puri sea beach early morning (before Sun rise) to float their boats in the Sea and to enjoy beautiful Sun rise on the day of Kartika Purnima.