Nuakhai is observed to welcome the new rice-paddy of the season. It is celebrated as a way of thanks giving to Mother Earth in the month of Bhadrab. It is observed on panchami tithi (the fifth day) of the lunar fortnight of the month of Bhadrapada or Bhaadra (August–September), the day after the Ganesh Chaturthi festival.Hindu philosophy and pantheism believes Arna (food) to be Brahma. And since Arna is attributed to Goddesses Laxmi, on the day of Nuakhai, Goddess Laxmi is worshipped as well.
Nuakhai is also called Nuakhai Parab or Nuakahi Bhetghat.The new rice paddy is offered to the Istha Devi of the family and the village Devi and only then it is used for day today consumption of the people. It is the common belief of the people in western odisa that observation of Nuakhai frees them from sorrows unhappiness, diseases and loss of crop . It has its best celebration in the Kalahandi, Sambalpur, Balangir, Bargarh, Sundargarh, Jharsuguda, Sonepur, Boudh and Nuapada districts of Odisha. Every year, the tithi (day) and samaya (time) of observe was astrologically determined by the Hindu priests. Priests sat together at the Brahmapura ,Jagannath temple in Sambalpur and calculated the day and time. The tithi (date) and lagna (auspicious moment) were calculated in the name of Pataneswari Devi in the Balangir-Patnagarh area, in the name of Sureswari Devi in the Subarnapur area, and in the name of Manikeswari Devi in the Kalahandi area. In Sundargarh, Puja (worship) was first offered by the royal family to the goddess Sekharbasini in the temple which is opened only for Nuakhai. In Sambalpur, at the stipulated lagna (auspicious moment), the head priest of Samaleswari Temple offers the nua-arna or nabarna to the goddess Samaleswari, the presiding deity of Sambalpur.
Nuakhai is a festival and celebration of happiness, different types of local sweets and foods are cooked. All the family members assemble together. After offering the new rice to the deity, they all sit together and take the new rice, along with Manda-Pitha ,Khiri-Puri etc. The blessings of the Ishta Devi and elders are then sought. In the evening it is habitual and obligatory to have meat, as it is believed that one who does not eat meat on the Nua-Khai day, shall be born as a heron in his future birth.
What ever be the myth associated, Nuakhai is a celebration of the mass. People may stay in far of lands, for there livelihood, but in the Nua-Khai they come home to celebrate this festival with other members of the family.
Steps followed, rituals of Nuakhai :- Beheren (announcement of a meeting to set the date) / Lagna dekha (setting the exact date for partaking of new rice) / Daka haka (invitation) / Sapha sutura and lipa puchha (cleanliness) / Ghina bika (purchasing) / Nua dhan khuja (looking for the new crop) / Bali paka (final resolve for Nuakhai by taking the Prasad (the offering) to the deity) / Nuakhai (eating the new crop as Prasad after offering it to the deity, followed by dancing and singing) and finally JUHAR bhet (respect to elders). Nuakhai Bhetghats are organized at various places of INDIA now to mark the occasion.