Sambalpur, Sept 12 (PTI) Unable to visit Sambalpur district to participate in the Nuakhai festival due to the COVID-19 situation, an 11-year-old scuba diver and her father dived into the Arabian Sea on the east coast of UAE to celebrate the occasion in a unique manner, a statement said.

Dubai-based Tisya Panigrahi and her father Priyadarshee Panigrahi, both trained scuba divers, said as “ Nuakhai holds a very special in our hearts. We decided to do something unique on this occasion and this idea germinated.” They descended to a depth of about 12.1 metres into the sea in the Gulf of Oman from the Dibba Rock dive site on Friday and greeted people with ‘Nuakhai Juhar’ and ‘Happy Nuakhai’ placards under the sea on eve of Nuakhai, which was celebrated on Saturday.

The Panigrahis’ said in the statement that diving Instructor Hani El Hajjar, who hails from Lebanon, helped them in taking photographs and videos using a special underwater camera.

Tisya said, “Diving is something that I enjoy a lot. It was also fun to hold the placards and pose for pictures and videos. Nuakhai has many memories for me.

“I like the festival because we get to dress in traditional clothes, dance to peppy Sambalpuri songs, and get great traditional foods”.

Nuakhai is the most popular agrarian festival in western Odisha.

Tisya on August 22 last year obtained her PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Junior Open Water Scuba Diver License in UAE at the age of 10.

The girl, who was born in Sambalpur, was inspired by her father, who has been diving since 2012 after getting his PADI Open Water Scuba Diver License from Vietnam.

He is based in Dubai and works as a General Manager with a Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) company.