**Cuttack:** Against all odds, the most awaited Balijatra fest kicked off from November 14 in the millennium city along Mahanadi banks, which celebrates Odisha’s rich maritime legacy.
As the auspicious month of Kartik concludes on the full-moon day (Kartik Purnima) people eagerly await the week-long historic Bali Jatra (voyage to Bali), the largest open air trade and cultural fair in the state.
The festival began at around 5 PM, with an inaugural ceremony graced by important dignitaries. Finance Minister Pradeep Amat graced the occasion as the Chief Guest,and the Cuttack MP, Bhartruhari Mahtab as the Chief Speaker. Other dignitaries like Education Minister Debi Mishra, Tourism Minister Ashok Panda, Higher Education and Pradeep Panigarhi, Energy Minister Pranab Prakash Das were present according to the sources.
Though the event faced many hurdles right from the beginning of its announcement notification, and tussle between NGT and District Administration for its clearance, the city is ready, the district administration and the police made elaborate plans for its smooth execution.
“A total of 50 platoons of police force & 300 officers are deployed at the BaliYatra. 30 CCTVs installed & 35 Aid-posts opened at the BaliYatra, ”, informed Sanjeev Arora, DCP, Cuttack.
It is one of the most awaited occasions of the millennium city for every age-group as it offers a vast diversity of attractions, from numerous Odia delicacies such as the famous Dahi-Bara Aludam, Thunka Puri, Baraf Pan,Gandhi Shilpi Bazaar (tribal handicraft) to thrilling rides.
Merchants from across the nation have come to this big carnival to put up their stalls and business advertisements.
About 1400 commercial stalls have been set up in a 23 acre of land in both upper and lower fields for traders to sell their products and services.
There are some unique features to Bali Jatra this time. 15 stalls have been alloted to transgenders to showcase their handicrafts. The use of polythene bags has been completely banned and all the stalls have been strictly instructed to forgo their use.
Administration has identified several parking lots near the Bali Yatra ground for vehicle parking of visitors.
The carnival has a deep connection with the glorious maritime past of Odisha, as it was the route of trade and cultural expansion. The excavated Roman coins, Kushan coin, Chinese ceramic sherds found in different parts of Odisha in the recent past is one of the important evidence of this trade culture.