Nuakhai 2023: Arisa to Manda, 7 Pithas From Odisha To Celebrate

In India, the state of Odisha celebrates Nuakhai, a prominent agricultural festival. The festival is referred to as Nuakhai, which means ‘new food’, and it celebrates the harvest of newly grown rice. A significant portion of India's population engages in agriculture. In West Odisha, a region where both tribal and non-tribal communities coexist harmoniously, their livelihoods are intricately tied to farming, with some being cultivators and others working as agricultural labourers. The primary dietary staple of the people in Odisha is rice, referred to as ‘Anna,’ representing the central element in the circle of life in the Universe. Consequently, the Navanna or Nuakhai festivals place immense significance on Anna, elevating it to a special celebration. Nuakhai is not just a customary festival; it primarily revolves around the importance of food grains, particularly rice, which embodies life itself. 

On this day, families join together to praise the deity for a plentiful harvest and indulge in a feast using freshly harvested rice as the star ingredient. It highlights the agricultural nature of the festival, as much as Baisakhi in Punjab, Bihu in Assam, Onam in Kerala, and Pongal in Tamil Nadu. According to the Hindu calendar, Nuakhai occurs on the Panchami Tithi during the lunar fortnight in the Bhadrapada month (usually August or September), right after Ganesh Chaturthi. 

Here are some rice pithas that you can make to enjoy the day's special dishes.   

Arisa Pitha  

Arisa Pitha is a crispy, deep-fried rice cake. Rice flour is mixed with jaggery, sesame seeds, and a hint of cardamom to form a dough. Small portions are flattened and fried to a golden crispness, creating a delightful sweet treat.  

Enduri Pitha  

Enduri Pitha, a cherished delicacy during Nuakhai, is a steamed rice cake wrapped in turmeric leaves. It's filled with a sweet mixture of grated coconut and jaggery, offering a delightful blend of textures and flavours. This traditional dish plays a central role in the festive feasts of West Odisha. 

 Chakuli Pitha  

The Nuakhai festival in Odisha is not complete without the delicious Chakuli Pitha. These crispy, golden-brown rice pancakes are a culinary delight. Made from rice flour, urad dal, and a dash of spices, they are deep-fried to perfection. Chakuli Pitha is a favourite at festivals because it is so crunchy and deliciously simple. The fragrance it holds makes it more special in the festival platter. 

Manda Pitha  

Manda Pitha is a cherished delight during the Nuakhai festival in West Odisha. These steamed rice dumplings are stuffed with a delectable mixture of grated coconut and jaggery, creating a sweet and savoury contrast. They are wrapped in turmeric leaves, imparting a unique aroma and flavour. Manda Pitha symbolizes the essence of Nuakhai with its traditional preparation and delightful taste, making it an integral part of the festive feasts.  

Kakara Pitha  

These deep-fried rice cakes are sweet and crunchy, with a rich filling of grated coconut and jaggery, offering a perfect blend of textures and flavours. Their distinctive crescent shape and golden exterior make them visually appealing. Kakara Pitha's presence on the Nuakhai menu adds a sweet and crispy dimension to the festive spread, delighting all who indulge in them.  

Poda Pitha  

Poda Pitha is a culinary gem associated with the Nuakhai festival in West Odisha. This unique rice cake is baked, not steamed or fried, resulting in a distinctive smoky flavor and a slightly crisp exterior. It's made from rice, black gram, and grated coconut, combined with jaggery for sweetness. Poda Pitha's preparation involves slow cooking over open flames, imparting it with a special, rustic charm that perfectly complements the festive spirit of Nuakhai.  

Muan Pitha  

Muan Pitha is a traditional delight synonymous with the Nuakhai festival. These steamed rice cakes have a unique cylindrical shape and are made from rice flour and black gram. They are often filled with a scrumptious mixture of grated coconut and jaggery, creating a sweet and savory contrast. Muan Pitha's soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture and delightful taste make it an integral part of the festive feasts.