|| Nuakhai or Nuankhai ( ନୂଆଖାଇ or ନୂଆଁଖାଇ) is an agricultural festival mainly observed by people of Western Odisha, particularly Sambalpuri cultural area. Nuakhai is observed to welcome the new rice of the season. According to the Hindu calendar 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. This is the most important social festival of Western Odisha.
Hindu philosophy and pantheism believes Arnna to be Brahma. Again Arnna is attributed to Goddesses Laxmi, hence on the day of Nuakhai Laxmi Puja is observes as well. Nuakhai has been observed by different tribes in different names, as the Dud Khadia and Pahadi Khadia called it as Jeth Nowakhiaa the Oram called it NowaKhani, the Munda called Jam-nowa, the Santhali called it Janthar and Baihar Horo Nawabai, the Birjia called it Nawaba and Jam-nowa, the Parajas of Bastar and Orissa called as Nowa-aani, Bihara called it Nowa-jam. In Chotta Nagapur area the Ashur tribe which a sub-clan of the Birjhia called it as Nowaa. In Tripura the tribes called it Mikatal, in East Bengal it is known as Nabarnna.
Nuakhai is also called Nuakhai Parab or Nuakahi Bhetghat. The word nua means new and khai means food, so the name means the farmers are in possession of the newly harvested rice. The festival is seen as a new ray of hope, held the day after the Ganesha Chaturthi festival. It has a big significance for farmers and the agricultural community. The festival celebrated at a particular time of day which is called lagan. Arsaa pithaa is prepared to celebrate this festival. When the lagan comes, the people first remember their village god or goddess and then have their nua.
This indicates beside Sambalpur Nua-Khai is observed in various part of India. However, the people of Sambalpur observed this in much elegance and splendour. First, the new rice paddy is offered to the Istha Devi of the family and the Village Devi then it is used for day toady affair. May it be the darkness of sorrow or may it be the bed of happiness people of this area believes that the village deity has a major role to play. This faith in the deity gives them immense strength to face the problems or the world with ease. They believe that if Nua-khai is observed then all the sorrows unhappiness- diseases- and loss of crop is avoided.