Berhampur traditional toy fair is as old as our civilization, but its use has become rare and limited to certain few places in the country these days. The old Lord Jagannath temple located in Khaspa Street in Berhampur, however, is still clinging to the traditional practise and has made toy play one of its most sacred rituals.
The Kandhei Yatra is a popular festival held in Berhampur every year and is attached to the rites of the ancient temple of Jagannath.
Thousands, including children, visit the fair to purchase toys. The festival is observed a week after the Rath Yatra, every year on full moon night of the Hindu month of Shravan, which is also celebrated as Guru Purnima. The two-day festival has as many as 60 shops selling traditional toys made of clay, cow dung, paper mache, coir and wood, from various places of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
The surprising aspect is that all 10 Khaspa Street temples stay open all night long.
During the early days, the king of Mahuri empire used to inspire these clay toy-makers. A scholar and cultural critic, Tripati Nayak, said a Jagannath temple priest had asked the former king to initiate the Kandhei Jatra.
The festival is said to be over a century old. In Berhampur, this is an extension of the Rath Yatra celebrations. In Khaspa Lane, Kandhei Jatra is ceremoniously attached to the old Jagannath temple. The pedestal of the idol of Lord Jagannath at the temple is adorned with earthen toys portraying mythological characters on the full moon night of the festival.
The process of modelling clay toys is pretty simple. Craftsmen collect suitable clay, cow dung, tamarind seed powder, khadi stone and wheat flour and make a paste of it. The toys are then crafted with deft & experienced hands in traditional style. A touch of paint to the dried toys adds life to it.
Parents of Ganjam district, who have marriage ceremonies of their daughters scheduled to be held within a year buy the traditional toys at the fair. Traditional toys purchased from Kandhei Jatra are ritualistic inclusions in the luggage sent to the home of her in-laws along with the bride.
They installed makeshift kiosks on both sides of Khaspa Lane, like a village fair. To keep this special tradition going, some local citizens recently founded the Kandhei Yatra Committee. In order to energise this unique tradition, a local cultural organisation, Ama Sanskruti Ama Parampara, was founded a few years ago. To entertain the crowd at the fair, it organises night-long traditional cultural programmes.
Lines such as Niya niya niya re bhai, mahuri raija kandhei aehi…budha tharu pua, budhi tharu jhia, sabhinka mana ku niye bhandei (Oh brother! take these toys of Mahuri estate…from old men to little boys, from old women to little girls, these toys allure all and sundry) echo all around Berhampur during this festival.
While Khaspa Street is very overcrowded, because of the association with the Jagannath temple in the vicinity, individuals are not willing to relocate the fair to an alternate venue.
How to Reach Berhampur
By road : Gopalpur – Ahmedabad road, NH59 will take you to Berhampur, NH217 for Gopalpur – Raipur route and NH5 for Chennai- Kolkata route. There are bus services which connect the urban cities to Berhampur.
By train : Berhampur has its own railway station. It is well connected to all major cities and you can easily catch regular trains in between Berhampur and major cities.
By Air : The closest airport to Berhampur is Biju Patnaik Airport, Bhubaneswar. It is well connected with all cities around India.
Local transport in Berhampur : Berhampur is well developed in transportation. One can choose to take Auto rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, buses or taxis as per one’s convenience and budget