By: Himanshu Guru
The state of Odisha is best known for its cultural richness. Many unique traditions and practices make the place important. One of them is ‘Makara Basiba’. Practiced on the occasion of Makara Sankranti every year, two persons of the same gender tie the knot of friendship for a year as per this practice. The tradition is mostly witnessed in the Western part of the state where a person reaffirms the strength of the bond of friendship with his/her best friend during this occasion.
There is no firm proof how this practice originated. However, since it is a unique practice of making strong friendship with someone, which of course is a positive thing, people go for it happily.
In mythology, during the Tretaya Yuga, Lord Shree Ram had made a strong friendship bond with the monkey king Sugriba. This friendship had an unwritten condition – Shree Ram would help Sugriba to fight against his tyrannical brother Bali, and in return Sugriba along with his associates would help Shree Ram finding and getting back His consort Mata Sita. Some intellectuals claim the Makara tradition of Odisha has originated inspired by this event of the mythological age.
In Odisha, a special food is made during Makara Sankranti that is called ‘makara chaula’. The ingredients of this food are uncooked newly harvested rice, banana, coconut, jiggery and sesame. This is the Makara Sankranti special food that is offered to the God.
The two friends who want to tie the friendship knot between them feed each other a bite of this offering and exchange gifts. Once this rite is completed the two girls become Makara of each other. And in case of boys, the two becomes Maharshad (also called Marsad) for each other.
The tenure of this friendship continues for at least one year. The next year they can either repeat the rite to continue the strong friendship bonding, lest they become just friends.
During the one year tenure of the strong bonding, that is till the next Makara Sankranti, the friends are not allowed to pronounce name of each other. And by mistake if anyone of them pronounces, he/she bites the little finger of his/her hand seven times to get over the vice of pronouncing his/her best friend’s name. Is it not unique?
Again, once the two friends become Makara or Marshad of each other they share a friendship bonding with each other like they do with their family members. And often the family members of the two friends also respect the ‘created’ relationship and accordingly cordially behave the other family.