Chitou Amavasya is celebrated in Orissa
in honour of Lord Jagannath
. The festival is celebrated on the new moon day of the lunar month of Shravana. On this day a special type of rice cake named as `Chitau Pitha` is offered to Lord Jagannath at the temple. This cake is prepared and eaten with relish in almost every household. The deity on this day bears a golden mark called Chita on the forehead.
In rural areas Chitou Amavasya is celebrated as an agricultural festival. On this auspicious occasion the farmers worship the paddy-fields. After a purificatory bath in the morning, they go to their respective paddy-fields with cake, flowers, milk etc and pray the fields to yield a good crop.
Tradition of Chitou Amavasya
Earlier the Chitou Amavasya was celebrated to appease evil powers of animals, serpents, inspects or plants through worship. People worship and pray them to avoid their wrath. `Pilas` breed enormously in the paddy fields and tanks during the rainy season. Farmers often cut their feet by the sharp edge of the snails while working bare-footed in the fields. Therefore, during the festival the piles are offered cakes and appeased as a female form of evil power known as `Gandeisuni` (`Genda` is pile). The farmer girls go to the fields and while offering cakes pray "Oh, Gandeisuni, be appeased and do not cut the legs of my father or brother".
Legend of Harali Kans
In Sambalpur the festival of Chitou Amavasya is known as "Harali Kans". The inhabitants of this area regard it to be a day of the witch, `Tandei.` She is believed to a witch who moves in the dark to suck the blood of the children. To save children from her wrath mothers draw peculiar designs below the naval zone of the children before the night falls. It is believed that these designs would scare away the witch. A common variety of rice-cake Chakuli Pitha is also offered to the witch to appease her and thereafter the cake is taken by all.