June 23, 2022

History of Traditional Lantern Usage in Odisha

In the old days, when electricity was not invented, the people of Odisha used a lamp called “Dibiri Bati” as a source of light. Kerosene was used as fuel. Even today, we rarely see such lamps in rural pockets. While this practice was prevalent in urban areas, in hilly areas and in remote places, people found it difficult to light their homes. Almost, after sunset, most places were overshadowed by darkness. However, using Dibiri is problematic as it releases black smoke. Consequently, the walls and the roof of the houses became blackened by the frequent use of Dibiri.

Later, ‘Chimili’ was used as a light source in Odisha by some people. A canvas to be fixed (Salita) is rolled up and set on fire to light up the house. According to researchers, in 1920 the traditional lantern and chili peppers were used to cope with darkness.

The traditional lantern was used to illuminate the surrounding space which was portable. According to usage, it was also used for signage, decoration and in religious rituals or in celebrations.

In a traditional lantern, a wick is ignited, which is surrounded by a round-shaped glass to prevent the flame from going out. On the top there are holes for ventilation, which keeps the flame burning.

When asked about the use of the lantern in the early days, residents of Sriram Nagar in the Sanakhemundi area of ​​Ganjam district said that until electricity was supplied to their village, villagers often used a traditional lantern to light up their homes. These days, due to the availability of other arrangements, lanterns are not used. The old lanterns they used were kept in their warehouses in a miserable state or were already thrown away.

Bangali Sahu from Digapahandi area says that these days lantern is not needed as we have charging lamps, candles or inverters at home. However, we kept it in the house as a keepsake and to educate the new generation about it. Similarly, Simanchal Tripathy from Sanakhemundi region said that earlier during study hours, weddings or any other social functions lanterns are needed. However, the weather has changed.

Dibiri, Chimili or Lantern are hardly found in the market these days. According to traders, there are very few customers asking for a lantern these days. Consequently, the sale of lanterns decreased significantly. Previously, it was available at a price of Rs. 50, but now the price has risen to Rs. 300. According to some people, now only for decoration purposes, lanterns are used.

According to some young people, they have not seen lanterns being used in their homes. On the contrary, they saw it in hotels or parks as an object of decoration.

According to some Odia scholars who started digging about Odia culture and practices, it has been estimated that the lantern was used in Odisha between 1910 and 1915 AD. Kerosene first came to the state in 1907. In 1920, literati wrote a dictionary entry about a lamp surrounded by glass.

Previously, in the polling stations, the lanterns were repaired and the work was handled by the municipality. In railways, the lantern was also used. In 1980 electricity was supplied to all areas and thereafter the use of the traditional lantern was reduced to almost zero. And now the lantern is like a souvenir for us.

Read also : Adopt this method to reduce your electricity bill in summer


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