The systematised and developed form of music which has been sung in the world famous temple of the Lord Jagannath at the sacred Puri-Dhama in its different festive occasions as a part of the temple services, and cultured in the ‘Jaga-Akhadas’ of Puri and 16 Sasanas, 36 Karavada (Brahmin villages) as well as other rural areas in the district, is known as Traditional Odissi Music. This tradition is also having a long and glorious history of its own for more then 2500 years. It is performed deftly in the shape of Raga-Ksydrageeta-Prabandha-Gana a form of Indian classical music by the illustrious and celebrated poet Sri Jayadeva in Odisha (Formerly Orissa).
Like Hindustani and Carnatic systems, Odissi music is a separate system of Indian classical music and is having all the essential as well as potential ingredients of Indian Classical form. But it has not come to limelight due to apathy from the time of British rule in Odisha (Formerly Orissa), want of its proper study, revival, propagation, etc. Despite the fact, the traditional music form could be saved and maintained in its pristine form. Thanks to the musicians particularly of Jaga Akhadas of Puri district, who could develop and maintain the music. The music movement of Odisha (Formerly Orissa), however, took a different turn after independence.
Like other aspects of her culture, music of the sacred land (Odisha (Formerly Orissa)) is charming, colourful, variegated encompassing various types. The existing musical tradition of Odisha (Formerly Orissa), the cumulative experience of the last two thousand five hundred years if not more, can broadly be grouped under five categories such as : (1) Tribal Music, (2) Folk Music, (3) Light Music, (4) Light-Classical Music, (5) Classical Music, which need a short elucidations for better understanding the subject in all India context.
The tribal music as the title signifies is confined to the tribals living mainly in the hilly and jungle regions and sparsely in the coastal belt of Odisha (Formerly Orissa). It is interesting to note that Odisha (Formerly Orissa) has the third largest concentration of tribes constituting about one fourth of the total population. They are distributed over 62 tribal communities.
Odisha (Formerly Orissa) is the treasure house of Folk Songs which are sung on different festivals and specific occasions in their own enjoyment. Folk music in general is the expression of the ethos and mores of the folk communities. Of the bewildering variety of folk music of Odisha (Formerly Orissa), mention may be made of Geeta, Balipuja Geeta, Kela Keluni Geeta, Dalkhai Geeta, Kendra Geeta, Jaiphula Geeta, Ghumura Geeta, Ghoda Nacha and Danda Nacha Geeta, Gopal Ugala and Osa-Parva-Geeta etc.
Bhajan, Janan, Oriya songs based on ragas, Rangila Chaupadi etc. are grouped under Light classical music, which forms an important segment of Orissan music. Sri Geetagovinda, Anirjukta Pravadha, Divya Manusi Prabandha, Chautisa, Chhanda, Chaupadi (now known as Odissi), Champu, Malasri, Sariman, Vyanjani, Chaturang, Tribhang, Kuduka Geeta, Laxana and Swaramalika are the various sub-forms, which individually or collectively constitute the traditional Odissi music. These sub-forms of the traditional Odissi music, can be categorised under the classical music of Odisha (Formerly Orissa).
Odissi is the classical dance form that originated in the ambience of the temples. It is a lyrical form of dance with its subtelety as its keynote. The intimate relationship experienced between the poetry and music in Odissi is a feature on which the aesthetics of the style is built. It is a "sculpturesque" style of dance with a harmony of line and movement, all its own.
The history of Odissi dates back to somewhere between the 8th and the 11th century, when the kings took great pride in excelling in the arts of dance and music. It is during these centuries that inscriptions referring to "Devdasis", the women who were conseciated to the worship of the deity, were carved at the Brahmeshwar temple. "Devdasis" apparently played an important part in the temple ritual and were required to perform from early evening to the bedtime of Lord Jagannath, the temple deity of Puri.
Jayadeva's "Geeta-Govinda", the bible of an Odissi dancer, written in the 12th century, has stupendous influence on the arts of Odisha (Formerly Orissa). The "Ashtapadis" were marked with specific ragas and talas. Around the 15th century, during the reign of Surya Dynasty, the element of "abhinaya" or expressional dance entered Odissi. During the same time Maheshwar Mahapatra wrote his "Abhinaya Chandrika", an elaborate treatise on Odissi dance style, and today, the basic to any study of it. By the 16th century, there were three kinds of dancers in Odisha (Formerly Orissa): the "Maharis" in the temples, the "Nachunis" in the royal court, and the "Gotipuas" in the gymnasiums - who performed for the public. The religious revival of the 18th century saw a return of temple patronage to the arts. But the "Maharis" were slowly disappearing and their place was being taken by the "Gotipuas", young boys dressed as girls. These boys were trained in physical culture in the "Akhadas", and it was them who preserved the basic for restructuring of the ancient dance tradition.
The technique of Odissi is based upon the "Chowka", a manly posture, and the weight of the body is distributed equally on both the sides. It is the posture of Lord Jagannath of Puri and reflects the balanced, all-encompassing and universal quality of "dharma" of Lord Jagannath. It is a "Sambhanga" or equally distributed position in terms of weight.
Next comes the "Abhanga" position, in which body weight is displaced to any one side due to deflection of one or the other knee, in either standing or half sitting posture.
Then comes the "Tribhanga" position, the three-bend posture, in which a series of triangles are formed in the body. The bends are made at the knees, the torso and the neck. It is an extremely feminine posture represented in sculptures of female figures and is based upon the Hindu concept of iconography.
What is interesting about Odissi is that body position is not merely a part of the vocabulary or frame-work. The posture by itself conveys a particular mood or message. The names of these postures too express the moods they represent.
The verses used by the Odissi dancer for narration are extremely ornate in content and suggestion. The finest example of these are of course, the "Ashtapadis" of the "Geeta-Govinda". Several considerations would contribute to the delineation of these items for expressions in dance. They would mainly involve the spiritual and devotional aspect on one hand, and the "Sringara" (the aspect of love) on the other hand. Quite simply, this could signify the human element in God and the element of Godliness in man. The "Abhinaya" in Odissi is evocative and classical in its stylization and is often interspersed with "Nritta" (the pure dance), which interludes as connecting link between two verses or ideas.
Items presented for an Odissi recital form a pattern of development which is both physically practical and also aesthetic. The "Mangalacharan" is an offering made at the start of the programme. "Rangamancha-pravesh" is the entry on to the stage with floral offering. "Rangabhumi pranam" is thr salutation to the stage and the earth, and is the first concept or idea. This is followed by the "Ishtadeva vandana" - an obeisance made to the dancers' favourite deity. The "Trikhandi-pranam" follows, where salutations are made to the goda, the guru, and the audience, thus concluding the item with "Anjali-hasta" - a gesture of greetings and devotion.
The "Batu" is an item of pure dance that is derived from the influence of the Tantric worship of Balukeshwar Bhairav, an aspect of Lord Shiva. The "Pallavi"is an elaboration of both dance and music. "Abhinaya" comes next, involving enactment of a lyric, followed by the concluding item "Moksha" which is liberation - which is the main aim of life and possibility of attaining is through devotional practice of the art of dance.
The costume of the Odissi dancer is a silk saree draped in a practical and comfortable style. The wears the head ornament called the "Mathami", "Kapa" on the ears, "Kankana" on the wrists, armlets called "Bahichudi" or "Tayila" and an elaborate belt. She wears on her ankles bells strung together on a single cord. A "Padaka-tilaka", a necklace with a locket rests on the chest. An Odissi dancer has elaborate hair-do in a knot adorned with the "Tahiya" which represents a temple tower. Garlands of flowers are woven into the hair. Palms and soles are painted with a red liquid called the "Alta".
The musicians accompanying the dancer are mainly the pakhawaj players, the flutist, and a singer.
Dance is an expression of man's joy through rhythmic and spontaneous movements. This pure expression and energy, when put in a classical mould must strictly adhere to the codes of a systematized technique, and Odissi bases itself on a wealth of such techniques which make this dance aesthetically appealing and visually delightful.
Animal Mask Dance:
Animal Mask Dances are prevalent in village of south Odisha (Formerly Orissa) specially in the district of Ganjam. Particularly during Thankurani Yatra, when the idols are taken out on the streets, the animal mask dancers go dancing before the procession. During the marriage ceremonies too, they lead the bridegroom's procession to the bride's house.
The three animal mask dances typical of the area are the tiger, bull and horse. Two persons get into cane frame and conceal themselves within it. Their legs become the legs of the animals they are representing.
Baunsa Rani literally means "The Bamboo Queen". Mainly little girls exhibit various acrobatic postures on the crossed bamboo bar as well as on the floor with exquisite scintillating movement synchronized with the beat of drums and songs.
Chaitighoda Nacha (Horse dance in the month of Chaitra):
This folk items is connected with the Sakti cult of coastal Odisha (Formerly Orissa) confined to the people of Kaibarta caste only. This festival is observed by the Kaibartas in the month of Chaitra from the fool moon day to eight day of Vaisakha in honour of their caste deity Vasuli devi. A horse ridden man with the head of a horse well-dressed and trunk built of bamboo, dances to the tune of Dhola and Mahuri accompanied by songs composed by the local poets. The dancing party consists of two dancers, one male and one female, a drumer and a piper. The Kaibarta song of Achutananda Das, (one of the poets of Pancha Sakha group flourished in the sixteenth century) is believed to be only religious text of the Kaibartas. The origin of this dance goes back to the hoary past.
The goddess Vasuli is held very high among the Kaibartas. Here it may be mentioned that the goddess has a wide distribution in Odisha (Formerly Orissa), but is considered to be the oldest in Puri where Raja of Puri provided land grants for regular worship of the deity. Vasuli in many places is taken to be one of the manifestations of the Durga and one of sixty-four Yoginis.
The horse dance is very popular and attracts a large audience. The performing group consists of three main characters- Rauta, Rautani and the Horse dancer, besides the drummer and the piper. The songs recited in the performace consists of the episode from mythology. Rautani is Rauta's Co-dancer and Co-singer.
Changu is rural variety of the tambourine. It is played by the male members of the Bhuiyan, Bathudi, Kharia, Juang, Mechi and Kondha communities of Sundergarh, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj and Phulbani. The dance in accompaniment to the Changu is performed by women alone. The men only sing songs, play on the Changu and move with the female dancers with simple steps. While the women advance they recede back and on their advance the females retreat. In between, the male dancers perform vigorous stunts in which they leap into the air and make wide circling movements.
Peculiarly enough the women cover up their person with long local made Saris. Only their bangled hands and feet remain visible. In a group the female dancers dance in a half-sitting position with swaying and sometimes jerky movements. During festivals and on any moon-lit night the young boys and girls assemble and dance to express their joy in living.
Odisha (Formerly Orissa) has earned name and fame in the international arena for its famous martial Chhau dance. This variety of dance is prevalent in the princely states of Mayurbhanja, Nilagiri and Sareikala (now in Chattisgarh). This dance was once performed exclusively by men. The origin of Chhau dance is shrouded in obscurity and no historical document in this context has yet been recovered. Etymologically, Chhau is derived from the Sanskrit word chhaya which means a mask but some scholars are of opinion that Chhau is an independent colloquial Odissi word, meaning to attack or hunt stealthly. It is evidently a war dance. The steps and movements, the attack and defence, the performers, each holding a sword and shield, dividing themselves into two parties, the drums and their mode of play, the huge kettle drum known as 'Dhumusa' a must in the orchestra, its reverberating powerful beats energizing the dancers, all signify that Chhau dance is unmistakably originated from martial practices.
The rituals connected with Chhau spread throughout the year beginning from Dasahara. The initiation for the newly recruits by putting a red-thread on the wrist starts from this day. The actual training of the Chhau starts from the day of Sri Panchami after paying homage to Saraswati, the goddess of learning. A number of rituals are performed primarily to call down the divine blessing. The thirteen Bhoktas (devotees) held from different castes perform all the connected rituals. The actual performance takes place on the occasion of Chaitra Parva or Chhau Festival. All these rituals have a deep symbolic meaning according to the Hindu philosophy. From the various rituals interlaced together, it is apparent that Chhau as an institution was meant to achieve religious, social, and cultural integration. Shaivites, persons adhering so Shakt-cult, Sun worshippers, Vaishnavites, all are integrated together admirably in a few festive atmosphere.
This dance, heroic and histrionic in character, is a way of life with the people living in the princely states of Mayurbhanja and Sareikala. The royal patronage in development of this art is mainly responsible. The kings of these states with artistic learnings had participated in dance performance. Chhau in general even today serves three fold purpose: (1) It perpetuates on art, (2) Maintains the age-old martial customs, and (3) Provides on opportunity for the integration of tribal culture with the culture of the sophisticated society.
The Chhau dance was too hard to include women to play roles, hence women roles are played by male dancers who are extremely masculine in appearance. The use of mask by every character is the speciality of Sareikala Chhau whereas Mayurbhanja Chhau is totally devoid of it. The Sareikala Chhau for stylisation appears to be less virile and conditioned by mask. On the other hand, the Mayurbhanja school of Chhau retains extremely virility of the original movement with martial trend.
It is a type of dance which takes utmost care in expressing emotion and feeling - anger, fear, laughter, wonder or sorrow. The rhythmic variations of this stances even in the same performance, the linear relating to the intricate foot work, and the complicated gamut of inspired stances are vital, charming, subtle, full of sinuous grace.
Chhau dance of Mayurbhanj:
Mayurbhanj, one of thirty districts of modern Odisha (Formerly Orissa) Province, was the biggest among the eighteen erstwhile Princely states annexed to the Indian union in 1948. Chhau Dance flourished under the royal patronage and fostering care of the Maharajahs or the rulers of Mayurbhanj for over a century. Evolved out of the extent war-dances of the area the dance has an unique character of masculine vitality. Its annual ceremonial presentation forms an essential feature of the tribal festival Chaitra Parva held for three consecutive nights. The dancers were divided into competing groups each trying to excel the other by virtue of their neat performance. Chhau Dance has a character of its own. In the process of its evolution and growth it has also freely imbibed from the prevalent folk and tribal dances and makes a harmonious blending of classical, traditional, folk and tribal traditions. Unlike the Sareikela and Purulia styles Mayurbhanja Chhau has dispensed with the mask. This has greatly influenced the style and the technique of the dance. In comparison to the other masked -styles it has a wide range of intricate movements with acrobatic stunts and beautiful choreographic patterns. Being without masks it has adopted a style which retains the virility of the original movements of the martial craft.
Mayurbhanj Chhau has a vast repertory of over hundred dances. Excepting the earlier dances with heroic characters, thematically it draws substantially from the Ramayana and Mahabharat. Many themes are also drawn from the Krishna legend. In the earlier stage, the Chhau dance had a limited items, namely, the Rookmar (Matcha or the dance of mockfighting). In course of time things of all varieties with special emphasis on the heroic ones were incorporated. The dance is more famous for its group numbers sometimes having more than twenty characters at a time. Most of the themes of Puranic episodes like Mayashavari, Kirata Arjuna, Saptarathi, Garuda Bahan, Dwaparleela, Vastra Haran, Bhasmasura etc. The duet dances are but a few. Most famous of them are Geeta and Rangapanda. The characters of the dances are Krishna, Siva (Mahadev), Rama, Parsurama, Hanuman, Shavara, Dandi, Jambaban (Mythological bear hero of Ramayan), Indrajeet etc. The themes combining elements of tremendous kinetic fury and very fast foot work with mellowed elegance and lyricism become visual poetry of strong passions gestured in a style that is free, intense, affluent, dynamic yet melodious.
Moods and modes:
Keeping with the martial tradition. Chhau Dance in its rudimentary form had only one dominating mood Tandava Bhaba or heroism. The solo dancers were simply displaying stylised vigorous movements with sword and shield in hands. The dances were Sandhamar (strong man), Dushman Pachhad (chasing the foe), Pakalanka (red chilly), Bajra Maruni (thunder bolt), Singha (to puzzle the enemy, obviously with martial display) etc. When themes were introduced and group items were composed the dance has to widen its moods and modes, corresponding to the demand of the characters. More the need was due to the introducing of female characters. So, at this stage Chhau had to evolve three modes of rendering of movements to build up the general aesthetic climate. The first, Hatiardhara, meaning holding of an arm for martial and masculine characters, Kalibhanga, meaning the pliant end of a spring for more delicate lyrical and non-martial characters especially females and Kalikata, meaning to cut off the tender spring with a weapon is a judicious mixture of the other two for both male and female characters.
When a dance develops on more prominent lines and more and more techniques are evolved, some kind of codification by naming them becomes necessary, so that it does deviate from the set pattern. Chhau Dance followed the same process and evolved its own code of movements still handed down by oral tradition.
The basic in Chhau is called Chhuk where legs bent on the knees form a quadrangle in a straight line. The right hand is held aloft and the left is held below. The hands suggest holding of a sword and a shield. In the Chhau dance, movement of hands are little bit restricted for holding weapons leaving the feet and body predominantly flexible. When actually held, the dance is called Dharan. Every unit of dance culminates in Dharan with jerk of the shoulders. The eight basic gaits are called Topka and the twenty eight dance-movements are called Ufli. Each of the movements has a suggestive name.
Besides these basic movements there are many peculiar movements known as Hana (to cut with force), Matha (thrusting movement), Habsa (crushing movements), Chmka (jerky movements), Ghoora (whirling movement) etc.
With permutation and combination of all these movements a Bhangi or an unit of dance is born and with a series of such woven Bhangis a full dance is created. Therefore, all the dances of this style are well-knit with dramatically structured movements and with these sharp movements of the dancers the narrative grows and there is a sense of dramatic progression.
When Chhau was exclusively under the royal patronage, it was being presented to the audience only once in a year for three consecutive nights during the last three days of the Hindu new year coming in mid-April. But, the undeveloped village groups used to perform during Dusserah festival which had the religious sanction. As the dance is full of acrobatic stunts in which the dancers are required to balance their feet, the dance is held in the open ground specially prepared with soft earth and sand.
A performance of Chhau Dance begins with a musical prelude with intense drumming known as Ranga Vadya. This short piece of vigorous music charges the atmosphere and the dancers get inspired.
Like the classical dances of India, Chhau Dance has three stages of development, one in slow tempo - Chali, second in middle tempo - Nata, and the third in fast tempo - Natki which brings about the climex. In Chali the dancer enters the stage with majestic gaits posing dramatically in the beats of the drums. In Nata, the mood of the character is developed with suggestive as well as expressive movements. The climax 'Natki' is characterised by fast movements and intricate choreographic patterns.
The orchestra is generally provided by the traditional drummers and musicians of 'Dom' community whose profession is also to provide music during marriage and other religious celebrations. Following are the instruments they play:
1. Dhol - A barrel-shaped drum played with the palm and fingers of the left hand and a blunt stick in the right.
2. Chadchadi or Kadra - A short cylindrical drum played with two lean sticks to produce vibrating sound.
3. Dhumsa - A huge bowl-shaped kettle-drum of iron case covered with buffalo skin played with two heavy and blunt sticks. It produces reverbating sound.
4. Mahuri - A local variety of wind-instrument in which all the tunes are played out.
While the music is provided by a number of Mahurias playing in unison, the Dholias provide the fairly complicated rhythmic designs with great enthusiasm. Thus the plaintive cry of the Mahuri and the sound of various drums combine to produce the loud orchestra of Chhau.
Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal:
The Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal has till today retains traces of its glory and sophistication. Though it is of the same mask-less pattern as that of the present Chhau Dance of Mayurbhanj, it has retained its distinct identifications and peculiarities in its stylization, choreography and its repertoire.
While the Princes and the Royal families are the participants in the Sareikela Chhau and the commoners in the Mayurbhanj Chhau teams, it has remained with the traditional Paikas of Dhenkanal, whose ancestors themselves formed the infantry-men of the Dhenkanal Kings, before the merger of the States.
The martial traditions of the Paikas of Dhenkanal occupy a very important place in the history of Odisha (Formerly Orissa). The detailed descriptions of the real battles they fought, which took place between the Maratha army of Rajaram and the army of Dhenkanal's King Bira Trilochana Mahindra Bahadur in 1779 and how the Maratha army was defeated have been recorded in the famous book ``Samara Taranga" by the great poet Brajanath Bada Jena (1730-1795) of Dhenkanal. Amongst the Oriya literature on war, this book therefore stands unique and the foremost.
Culture flourished with patronisation of the state and no wonder the militant Paikas of Dhenkanal nourished a beautiful institution of Chhau Dance.
Before the year 1890, amongst the numerous Paika villages of Dhenkanal, two villages namely Balarampur and Chandra Sekhar Prasad had become very prominent for their Chhau Dances in their Paika Akhadas. By then Chhau Dance was also very famous at Bonai state from which royalty, the mother of Raja Sura Pratap of Dhenkanal hailed. It is therefore assumed that there was some exchange of culture between Bonai and Dhenkanal. It was during the rule of Maharaja Sura Pratap Mahindra Bahadur, that these institutions got the real boost they deserved. The King, in order to encourage the art and the artists gave monetary grants for purchase of costumes and musical instruments and conferred special titles on the Gurus and the artists.
In 1902, Raja Sura Pratap Mahindra Bahadur married in the royal family of Sareikela and to the Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal, it was an added advantage because Sareikela was also then very famous for its masked Chhau Dance.
Though Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal never had the masks, nor adopted the pattern, it enriched its repertoire by adding other technicalities such as music & costuming. Chhau Dance had become an item of "Must" in all state functions. Regular performances were conducted at the palace of Dhenkanal during the month of Chaitra after the Dola Jatra in the presence of the royal gathering and V.l.Ps. Ustad Bhagawat Sardar Singh of Jhumpudia village earned a reputation as a great Guru of Chhau Dance.
In 1916, a Chhau Dance competition was held at Cuttack in aid of War-fund where Chhau teams of both Mayurbhanj and Dhenkanal had participated. The impresario of the Dhenkanal Chhau was Chandrasekhar Pani and it is reported that the Dhenkanal Chhau team won the medal.
King Sura Pratap died in the year 1918 and the state was brought under the court of wards by the British government. There was a dull moment for Dhenkanal Chhau during this period. Although feverish activities continued, the Chhau dance of Dhenkanal had to wait for its restoration until the year 1925 when Maharaj Shankar Pratap occupied the throne. To the good fortune for all, Shankar Pratap also got married in the royal family of Sareikela which event again helped the promotion of Dhenkanal Chhau.
A real connoisseur of art and discipline, Shankar Pratap did his best to bring back the Chhau dance of Dhenkanal to the limelight again. He established the palace programmes of Chhau with added glamour. He deputed the following Gurus and artists to Sareikela for a refresher training. They were Bula Ranjan Singh, Lingaraj Mohapatra, Ballav Mohapatra, Dhruba Charan Bhuyan and Nath Naik (Drummer).
Shri Ballav Mohapatra and Shri Lingaraj Mohapatra are alive. Though at a very old age, it is a feast for the eyes to see these old maestros demonstrating. Although physically with run-down muscles, these maestros spring-up on their toes as the drums beat.
Shankar Pratap went further. He granted freedom from forced labour for the participants of the Chhau Dance. Thus, with adequate royal patronage, the fame of the Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal spread far and wide.
The colourful repertory of the Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal consist of the following items: (A) Solo items (B) Duet items (C) Items with four artists (D) Group items and (E) The war dance.
The main accompanying musical instruments are the Dhola (the drums) and the Mahuri (the blowing instrument like Shehnai). These two are the absolute necessities. The other instruments which are also used are the Bada Baja (the big drum) the Turi and Kahali (Like clarion and trumpet without reed) and the Jhanja (Brass Alloy cymbals), etc.
No songs are sung in Chhau of Dhenkanal but the music is based on traditional tunes of Odissi Songs the Chhandas and the Champus etc.
The style of presentation of the Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal is unsophisticated and is in the typical common Jatra style of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) except the central raised platform.
A field known as the Jatra Padia is the place of performance. The spectators sit around this open arena. By the side of the field, there is a room where the artists wait. The make-up and the costuming is done at another place away from the field. After make-up, all artists gather for an invocatory Puja at the village goddess Mangala, located at the village cross-road. After the Puja, all the artists walk in a ceremonial procession along with the musical accompaniment of Dhol, Mahuri and come to their waiting room through the spectators. The music hands take their position at one side of the arena with the spectators.
The performance begins with the drummer demonstrating his skill on the instruments. Sometimes he dances with the drum reciting the "Bols" loudly. After this initials, there follows a demonstration of the Chalis (Styles of walking). Artists come out from the waiting room together and after few rounds in the field, go back to the room. Then follows the individual dance numbers. In between the items the drummers take to their toes and demonstrate various style of drum beatings.
The final item is invariably the ``war dance" where the skill of warfare is demonstrated.
This Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal, as it has been, cannot be performed in a modern theatre hall having one side spectators. The style of performance even for a Solo dance demands an open arena with spectators on all sides.
There is absolutely no scope for giving any scenic arrangements at the background. The properties are handed over to the artists in view of everybody. Costumes are re-arranged in the knowledge of all. Properties like that of a tall stool and the "Serpent cut-out" are brought into the arena by the boys and kept in place in broad light without any cover. On the whole, the atmosphere in a performance of Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal is absolutely cordial with full of spectators participation.
Origin of the word "Chhau":
The above record also indicates the origin of the word "Chhau". According to the experts of Dhenkanal, this definition, in a way is almost similar to the theory given for the Sareikela Chhau or the Mayurbhanj Chhau except of the fact that in Sareikela, they connect the word "Chhai" to "Chhaya" meaning shadow to be linked with the facial masks they use. The other point of view expressed by the experts on Mayurbhanj Chhau is that the word "Chhau" is an abbreviation of the word "Chhauni" meaning a military camp where probably the "Chhau" dance had originated, would hold more good and appropriate to the Chhau dance of Dhenkanal, whose artists hail only from the traditional families of Paikas of Dhenkanal.
In a broad sense, the techniques of the Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal can be termed unique. As regards the music and the repertory, Chhau dance of Dhenkanal, would in a way, appear more similar to the Chhau Dance of Sareikela except the masks. No rituals are attached to Chhau dances of Dhenkanal. As regards its training, it is purely the physical exercises adopted for the Paikali gymnastics. There is no female participation.
Suitable candidates first practise the "ara Lahan", for the fitness and suppleness of their body. The next phases of exercise consist of various styles of Chalis or gaits.
While both Sareikela and Mayurbhanja styles specify six types of Chalis, Topkas, the Dhenkanal Chhau adopts mainly the following four types:
(1) Salakha Chali
(2) Babu Chali
(3) Karua Chali
(4) Baga Topka
Similarly, while both Sareikela and Mayurbhanj Chhau specify 36 types of Uflis or Upalayas (the movements of the body, limb and foot work with leap and motion) the Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal specifies only 20 Uflis.
There have been efforts in the past to assimilate the beautiful things of other styles of Chhau with that of Chhau of Dhenkanal. There have been exchanges of men, materials and ideas. Only a very close study and extensive research may bring to light as to how much give and take have taken place in the field of Chhau Dances of Odisha (Formerly Orissa).
But, inspite of everything, Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal retains its uniqueness and local flavour. After the merger of states this beautiful Chhau Dance of Dhenkanal has almost turned defunct without any patronisation. Except a very few, all Ustads have left this world. There may not be any with direct knowledge of this school of dancing after another few years.
Though Dusserah is the occasion of Dalkhai, the most popular folk-dance of the western parts of Odisha (Formerly Orissa), its performance is very common on all other festivals such as Bhaijiuntia, Phagu Pune, Nuakhai, etc. This is mostly danced by young women of Binjhal, Kuda, Mirdha, Sama and some other tribes of Sambalpur, Bolangir, Sundargarh and Dhenkanal districts of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) in which men join them as drummers and musicians. The dance is accompanied by a rich orchestra of folk music played by a number of instruments known as Dhol, Nisan (a typical giant sized drum made of iron case), Tamki (a tiny one sided drum 6" in diameter played by two sticks), Tasa (an one sided drum) and Mahuri. However, the Dhol player controls the tempo while dancing in front of the girls.
It is known as Dalkhai because in the beginning and end of every stanza the word is used as an address to a girl friend. The love story of Radha and Krishna, the episodes from Ramayana and Mahabharata, the description of natural scenery are represented through the songs.
The young women dance and sing intermittently. The songs are of special variety with the additive 'Dalkhai Go' which is an address to a girlfriend. While dancing to the uncanny rhythms of the Dhol, they place the legs close together and bend the knees. In another movement they move forward and backward in a half-sitting position. Sometimes they make concentric circles clockwise and anti-clockwise.
The women generally dress themselves in colourful Sambalpuri Saris and wear a scarf on the shoulders holding the ends below in both the hands. Bedecked with traditional jewellery, their robust frames sustain the strains of the dance for long hours.
The Dalkhai dance has several adjunctive forms known as Mayalajada, Rasarkeli, Gunji kuta, Jamudali, Banki, Jhulki, Sainladi, etc. On account of its style, theme and performance Dalkhai is basically a secular form of dance.
Danda Nata of Odisha (Formerly Orissa), also known as the Danda Jatra, happens to be one amongst the most ancient form of histrionic arts of the state.
Associated with ritualistic services, Danda Nata forms an institution of dance, music and dramatics blended with religious, social reformation and an association of Universal Brotherhood.
Mainly on worship of Lord Shiva, the God of destruction of the Hindu mythology, who is also the Lord of histrionic arts (Nata Raj), this theatrical form brings into its fold a harmonious feeling of co-existence between followers of different philosophical doctrines, between political principles and sets of opinions.
Along with votive dedications to Lord Shiva ( Rudra, Hara, Mahadeva, Shankar, Bholanath etc ) in a Danda Nata, the greatness of other Gods and Goddesses such as Vishnu, Krishna, Ganesh, Durga, Kali etc. are also equally invoked.
Similarly while the original participants in a Danda Nata were said to be only the low-caste Hindus, people belonging to all other higher castes such as Kshyatriyas and Brahmins also participate in this institution with equal interest.
The word Danda Nata or Danda Jatra:
The word 'Jatra', is an indigenous term for the English word 'theatre' and 'Nata' is a derivative term of the word Natya which conveys meanings of dance, music and dramatics. The word 'Danda', denotes several meaning. Mainly it means (1) Staff, Club, Stick, Rod, Pole, or Sceptre and (2) Punishment and Chastisement.
In this Danda Nata (1) A sceptre of the Lord is worshipped and (2) The participants voluntarily bear self-inflicted penance.
According to ancient Hindu philosophy, the greatness of an individual in this materialistic world depends upon his accomplishment of self control over his own Body (Kaya), Mind (Mana) & Speech (Vakya). It takes tremendous amount of practice to gain this control and amounts to a lot of self denials. Those who achieve this are known as the Tri-Dandis (triple chastisement).
Since this method of bringing purity of conduct involves a lot of punishments (Danda) to self, this performance according to many is known as the Danda Nata.
The word Danda:
There is however, a very interesting definition given to the origin of the word DANDA. Because of the vigorous types of dances associated with the Danda Nata, it is said to have originated from the heavenly Tandava Nrutya of Lord Shiva. It is said that once Lord Shiva was teaching a Tandava Nrutya to his son Lord Ganesh. While dancing vigorously he kicked the stage and the sound "DAN" emanated. Simultaneously one of his Ghagudi (the brass tinkler) was broken from its chain around his raised ankle, dropped and fell on the body of the Mardala (the percussion instrument) emanating another subsequent note of sound as "DA". Together, therefore the word DANDA evolved to get the blessings of Lord Shiva to associate its meaning with performance of dance and music with vigour known as "Udanda".
The time of Danda Nata:
Danda Nata commences from the Chaitra Purnima and continues upto the Pana Sankranti (Maha Vishuva Sankranti) day. These two months, Chaitra and Baisakha are considered most auspicious for the worship of Lord Shiva. Many religious treatise indicate that if Lord Shiva is invoked during this period of the year, the earth is blessed with good harvest; increase of wealth and all round improvement of the families and communities occur.
The invocatory performances of Lord Shiva commences from the sixth day of the Solar month of Meena (March-April). For four days from the sixth day, preliminary preparations are made (people make vows, some receive Hukums (Nostrums) through trance. Then for eight days the Jhamu Jatra takes place. The rest thirteen days of the month is meant for Danda Jatra. Rituals.
In Odisha (Formerly Orissa) like the Danda Jatra, there are other kinds of ritualistic festivals as well, which are associated with self inflicted penance. They are the (1) Patua Jatra (2) Chadaka Jatra (3) Jhamu Jatra etc. While in Chadaka Jatra and Jhamu Jatra mainly the penances are demonstrated, in Patua Jatra and Danda Jatra, regular theatrical performances are followed in the nights.
The participants in a Danda Nata invoke the blessings of Lord Shiva. They are all under a vow. It may be to be blessed with a child, to fulfil certain ambition, to get rid of sickness, seeking happiness in life, good harvest, even peace and happiness to all fellowmen. The total number of vowers are 13 and the number of days for the festival is also 13. The vowers are known as the Bhoktas. This word Bhokta is derived from the word Bhakta (Devotee). Drawn from all communities, the leader of the Bhoktas is known as the Pata-Bhokta. All the Bhoktas lead a very pious life for 21 days. They do not eat meat or fish nor cohabit during this period. The Pata Bhokta does not eat rice and lives on fruit-juice and snacks. Others eat just one meal a day consisting of plain rice, etc which they cook themselves and eat at a place away from habitation. During the time of their gruel, any human voice per chance brings an abrupt end to their eating for that day. That is why at some places they keep on beating the drums until the eating is over.
During the period of Jatra, all Bhoktas carry out different forms of services to the Lord and therefore they are named differently. They are as under: (1) Pata Bhokta (2) Deula Padia (3) Danda Swami (4) Nili Patra (5) Chandania Patra (6) Gobaria Patra (7) Danta Kathia Patra (8) Betua Patra (9) Dhupia Patra (10) Bhandaria (11) Chua Mali etc.
Ghata is the Pitcher. In most of the religious and social functions of the Hindus, a pitcher full of water holds a very important place. The pitcher represents the body and the water is the life. It represents the God invoked and hence worshipped with due reverence. After the function is over the pitcher is again taken into the water of a pond or river with due care and immersed from where it had been brought.
In a Danda Nata this Ghata is known as the Kamana Ghata. Kamana means desire, and to worship the Kamana Ghata means to seek the blessings of the Lord for the fulfilment of one's desire.
There is again an interesting story as to how the pitcher came to be known as Kamina. "Kamina" happened to be the name of a Raksyasi (Demoness) with whom Lord Shiva fell in love while moving in a jungle. For sometime Lord Shiva forgot his duties to the mankind. Afterwards when he realised, he wanted to leave her. At the parting Kamina asked him about her fate and the Lord consoled her saying that at least once in a year the people of the earth will be remembering her. This Ghata named as Kamana therefore is said to be a symbol of hers.
According to poet late Bhikari Charan, this Ghata represents "Kalika", the consort of Lord Shiva. It is through her blessings, the Bhoktas are able to take up the self inflicted penances without any ill effect. It is She who protects all and fulfils all ambitions.
A new pitcher is taken to the pond or a river and water is lifted, to the accompaniment of drums and blowing of conch shell. This pitcher is first worshipped under a banyan tree and then taken out in a procession through the village and then kept in a hut (made preferably in front of a Shiva's temple), known as the Kamana Ghara. Two pieces of cane-sticks, representing 'Hara' & 'Gouri' are also kept near the Ghata and worshipped. A sacred fire is kept lighted up in the hut from which Pata-Bhokta lights up an oil lamp. While lighting, the Bhoktas yell with the word "Rushi Putre". Time to time when resin and myrrh powder is thrown on the lighted oil lamp, it burns up with a flare and the Bhoktas yell the words "Kala Rudramani Ho Joy".
A staff of the length of 6 1/2 cubits bearing 13 joints (representing 13 Bhoktas) and a piece of cloth tied to its top is worshipped. This is the Kamana Danda.
Where to perform:
The entire party consisting of the Bhoktas and their colleagues go around the village in a procession with the band of musicians. No specific declaration is made as to where they are going to perform "Danda" in that day.
Like the Bhoktas, some villagers (male or female) also keep a vow in their mind for getting some mercy from Lord Shiva. Seeing the procession, these vowers pour water and clean up the frontage of their house with cow-dung water and hurriedly put up floor designs with coloured powders and keep a jugful of water.
This indicates an invitation to the party.
Having received an invitation, thus the group stop there. After small preliminaries. the group light up an oil lamp and keep it on the verandah of the host and return to their camp.
At mid day, the party comes back to the spot and perform the Bhumi (Earth) Danda or Dhuli (Dust) Danda.
The Phases of Danda Nata:
Danda Nata, distinctly comprises of three phases.
(1) The Bhumi or Dhuli Danda (Acrobatics & gymnastics) at day time.
(2) The Pani Danda (Aquatic feats ) at day time
(3) The Danda Suanga (Dance, Music & Dramatics) at night time.
These three are the main, however. while taking out the procession or the beginning of the night performance the 'Agni Danda" (or the performance with fire) is also displayed.
The Bhumi or Dhuli Danda: This consists of a lot of physical exercises and acrobatics. The themes enacted in short sequences represent mainly the art of ploughing, cultivation and harvesting, A few formations in human figures, pyramids are displayed. During these performances one Bhokta asks 'How much paddy'? And the other Bhoktas give a figure which denotes the ensuing result of harvest during the coming year. This performance of Bhumi Danda is over by the afternoon and the Bhoktas yell "Kala Rudramani Ho Joy" and proceed to the village pond for the "Pani Danda".
Pani Danda: Pani Danda consists of aquatic feats. While the groups put up their performance as they swim and form pyramids in water, the musicians play Dhol & Mohuri. Men, women and children gather around the pond or the riverside to watch this show.
After this performance of Pani Danda, the Bhoktas return to their camp to have their only meal of the day and to prepare for the nights performance.
Danda Nata Suanga: The word 'Suanga" corresponds to the Sanskrit word "Swanga" which means graceful acting. Dance is always based on music. Any dramatic performance consisting of Dance and music therefore is known as Suanga in Oriya language. In a Danda Nata like any olden Suanga, every character enters dancing with the accompanying music, gives his self introduction, description of what the character is wearing or supposed to wear, even a description of his gait and make-up and while singing he dances intermittently. During a dialogue also the dance actions are corroborated. In between the dialogues both the speaker and the listening character dance vigorously. This pattern is a regular feature in every sequence of the Danda Nata which distinguishes its identity from other types of performing arts.
The presentation style of Danda Nata is absolutely simple as that of any common Jatra of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) except the fact that they do not need a raised platform in the centre. Any open space or the village cross-road turns out to be an acting arena, surrounded by spectators on all the four sides. Only a narrow path amongst the spectators wends its way to a distant improvised green room where the participants do the make up, costuming and rest. Sometimes a canopy is also put-up over the central acting arena.
The accompanying music:
The main accompanying musical instruments in a Danda Nata is the dhol (the double-sided drum) and the mahuri (the wind instrument like Shehnai). The other instruments which are used only in sequences of God characters are the ghanta (the bell metal disc), sankha (the conch-shell), kahali (clarion), the jhanja (brass alloy clappers).
Besides the above, other smaller instruments like ghungroo, ghagudi (small & big tinklers), dasakathi, ram tali (wooden clappers), khanjani, ghooduki or dhuduki, dambaroo and bina etc. are also played by the characters themselves as required.
The "Bina" used by the character "Binakara" in Danda Nata is not the type of "Bina" (the string instrument) known popularly. Here it is not a string instrument played by twangs. It is a Bow decorated with peacock feathers and in its string seven tinkle bells are tied. The player Binakara holds the Bow in his left hand raised and by jerks brings out the jingle in rhythm.
The Place of the Musicians:
The musicians take their positions at a side of the open arena nearer to the artists passage. Sometimes they move to the Vesha Ghara (Green Room) to lead a character to the arena.
The drummers not only play the drums throughout the performance but also demonstrate their own skill and stamina by playing the drums with regular dances and acrobatics in between the sequences.
The theme of the Danda Nata:
Danda Nata is not a performance of a complete story drama. It has a chain of loosely connected conventional episodes with a central theme of complete faith in God. It is He who can rescue the earthly beings from the clutches of evil. It is He who can grant happiness in life. Nothing happens without the will of Providence and so we must surrender to Him always.
The characters and roles in the Danda Nata:
Since Danda Nata does not contain a full story in its totality, each sequences has its own characters. So there is a series of sequences in which the characters appear in different Veshas and Upaveshas.
While slight variations are seen amongst the Veshas and Upaveshas of Danda Natas of the North, South and West Odisha (Formerly Orissa), the main Veshas like the PRAVA, KALIKA, SHIVA, CHADHEIYA, CHADHEIYANI, PATRA SAURA, SAURUNI, PARVATI, KELA, KELUNI, SABARA, SABARUNI, BAI DHANA, BINAKAR, KARUANI etc are mostly common every where.
The other characters which are introduced at some places but not included at other places are NANDI, NARADA, GUNIA, BAIDYA, JAMBABA, DWARI, additional wives of Chadheiya or Kela, son of Chadheiya, BANA DURGA, a brother of Chadheiya, son of Saura, BAISHNABAS, GUDIA, GOPALUNIS, KRISHNA, GOPIS, BRAHMIN, OLD MAN, NARADA, DANDASI, DUMBURA & HIS MOTHER, JAMADAR, HADI, HADIANI, SAHEB, DAROGA, etc.
From amongst the characters of Danda Nata, it will be seen that except the characters of Gods or Goddesses, all others are the most ancient human species, nothing to do with the so called modern civilization. They are from the lowest cadre of the society and the most down trodden. They have no materialistic belonging but yet have their biggest belonging "the deep faith in God".
One of the main characters that needs a mention is the Pata Bhokta. The Pata Bhokta is not a regular character in the Danda Nata, but he in plain clothes is there throughout, not only as the chief of the Bhoktas but a sort of Mediator between the characters and the spectators. He may be termed as the Sutradhara or the Master of ceremony in a Danda Jatra. On behalf of Spectators, he asks questions and talks to the characters. Sometimes he also recites a story to the masses. He also leads the first "Vandana" the invocatory songs in praise of all Gods and Goddesses.
A Danda Nata mainly consists of songs in Oriya. At places Sanskrit verses are also recited. Prose dialogues are very few and at many instances, they are spoken extempore.
Beautiful ornamentations are made in the composition of the verses. In most of the cases the writers choose to keep the first letters of the subsequent lines in an alphabetical order from "Ka" to 'Kshya". Songs for inferior characters are in local dialects. It is seen in many cases that characters like the Lord Shiva, Narada, watchman etc., speak in Hindi or Urdu language which can be traced to the impact of Moghul & Maratha rule in Odisha (Formerly Orissa).
In humorous sequences, mixed languages and dialects of Hindi, Telugu, Bengali have also been seen used.
On the whole, in a Danda Nata, the language is fluid, simple and easily understood by all.
Elements of Humour:
In a Danda Nata of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) a high sense of humour prevails almost in every sequence. There are battle of wits, mutual admiration, quarrels and compromise between different couples in all sequences.
The satires on fake Sadhu who makes a living on the religious sentiments of the people, on the Vaidya who adminsters wrong medicines, on the not so pious holy man letting off wrong blessings, the gags etc. cause roars of laughter amongst the spectators. The peculiar styles of vigorous dancing by Sadhu, the Chowkidar and other characters also provide a lot of amusement.
Elimination of Superstitions and Untouchability:
To eliminate odd superstitions and untouchability, Danda Nata has been a very powerful medium of mass communication.
The No. 13, has at some quarters been associated to be a bad omen. In a Danda Nata there are 13 Bhoktas. it continues for 13 days, the pole worshipped has 13 joints indicating that 13 is a lucky number.
Danda Nata as an institution of learning:
Danda Nata thus, not only provides clean entertainment to the masses, it also teaches them the art of living, broad thinking and simple living. It inculcates a deep faith in God, the creator of this universe with a sense of devotion and duty.
A colourful and popular performance is rendered by two members, one singer (Gayaka) and the other accompanist (Palia). The very word (Dasakathia) is derived from the word Das which means worshipper and Kathi means two pieces of sticks which produce a very sweet sound. This performance is ritualistic and secular in nature. The performers each holding a pair of sticks begin their performance in chorus with invocatory verses composed by the local poets, each one striking his own sticks in perfect tune. The recitation of mythological themes in usually at the top of voice hypnotizes folk listeners. The comment of Sukumar Ray on the performance of Dasakathia appears to be interesting. Hence it may be less musical but more dramatic. The dramatic performance includes verbose stanzas of various types including puranic episodes mixed with manly vigour. Luxurious in dress and with turban on head and wearing a long silken coat, the two dasas create a visual attraction of the listeners by their gestures and postures. This vocal recital is based on some patterns of tunes of inherent southern rural character. The form of inimitable type of music is a distinctive contribution of Ganjam district of South Odisha (Formerly Orissa). Accentuation of the languages, breaking of syllables with notes, rigid pronunciations indicate a clear fusion of southern patterns in Oriya.
A type of theatrical presentation, very interesting to the people, is prevalent in Bargarh district. In this performance subject matter being a part of Krishnalila, the river Jira is conceived as the sacred river yamuna, Amapali as Gopapur and Bargarh as Mathura. The main characteristics of the jatra, besides other highlights, is Kansa's elephant ride in the street of the kingdom, his high Mancha from where he falls and dies and his Durbar. Everything is so well planned and improvised that perhaps no where in the world, a play has been made to achieve such a vast magnitude bringing that central goal in dramatics, the unity, the team spirit and the universal brotherhood.
All the villages, the town and the river become acting zones, naturally all the inhabitants and visitors become characters!
For the whole month of Chaitra the village streets in Odisha (Formerly Orissa) reverberate with the sound of Ghanta (brass gong) played by Ghanta Patuas in accompaniment to their peculiar dance on the stilts which is very similar to the Karaga dance of Mysore. In Odisha (Formerly Orissa), it is closely associated with the worship of Mother Goddess who has various names as Sarala, Hingula, Charchika, Bhagavati, Mangala, Chandi etc. Ghanta patuas are the non-Brahmin Sevaks or servants of the deities. With the blessings of the respective deities attached to the shrines, they set out in groups of two to four. One of them dresses himself as a female with a black cloth tied on the head like a round cap while the two flowing ends are held by him in both the hands separately. He places the Ghata (sacred pitcher) which is profusely decorated with flowers, vermillion, sandlepaste and coloured threads, on his head. With the Ghata on the head he displays a variety of Yogic postures. Then he dances with bare-feet with the ropes without any support displaying rare skill. Dhol and Ghanta are the accompanying instruments and their players, while working out uncanny rhythms control the tempo of the dance.
After the performance the performers distribute the holy vermilion paste to the villagers and collect money and cereals. Like this they keep on moving for the whole month and return to their respective shrines for their annual celebration on the first day of the Hindu new year, Maha Visuva Sankranti. Such celebrations are marked by small fairs and ornate rituals connected with the worship of goddesses togetherwith performances of dance and music.
Ghoomra is a typical drum. It is just like a big pitcher with a long stem made of clay. The mouth is covered with the skin of a Godhi (a reptile). When played with both hands, it produces a peculiar sound quite different from other varieties of drums.
The dance performed to the accompaniment of this drum is called Ghoomra Nata. It begins fifteen days before the Gamha Purnima (full moon in September) and culminates on that night in a ceremonial performance. Young men of various communities fix a Ghoomra each on the chest with string tied the body simultaneouly dance and play.
The performance begins with slow circular movements. The Nisan is a smaller variety of Kettle-drum played with two leather-sticks. The player always places himself in the centre and controls the tempo of the dance. He also indicates change over the movements. After a brief dance sequence in different rhythmic patterns all the dancers move in a concentric circle and then stand erect in a line. Then enters the singer who first sings in praise of Saraswati and other gods and godesses. During the song the drums remain silent. After the prayer-song Chhanda, Chaupadi and other literary folk-songs are sung. Each couplet of a song is followed by a dance. At the end of the each couplet the singer adds 'Takita Dhe' which is a numonic syllable for the time-beats and indicates the dance to begin.
This dance type named after the accompanying Jhoomar songs is current among the Mahanta and Munda communities of the Sundargarh district. Among the Mahantas the dance is performed by the men only. Among the Mundas the singers who accompany the dancers sing songs and the dancers follow them in chorus to the accompaniment of Madal. The Mundas are especially experts in this dance particularly in intricate foot steps, movement of hip and wrists and movement of body.
Karam or Karma literally means 'fate'. This pastoral dance is performed during the worship of the god or goddess of fate (Karam Devta or Karamsani Devi), whom the people consider the cause of good and bad fortune. It begins from Bhadra Shukla Ekadasi (eleventh day of the brightmoon of the month of Bhadra) and lasts for several days.
This is popular among the scheduled class tribes (e.g., the Binjhal, Kharia, Kisan and Kol tribes) in the districts of Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh, Sambalpur and Dhenkanal. In Dhenkanal and Sambalpur the dance is in honour of Karamsani, the deity who bestows children and good crops. However, the rituals connected with the dance remain the same everywhere.
In the afternoon of the auspicious day two young unmarried girls cut and bring two branches of the 'Karam' tree from a nearby jungle. They are accompanied by drummers and musicians. The two branches are then ceremonially planted on the altar of worship and symbolise the god. Germinated grains, grass flowers and country liquor are offered to the deity. After completing the ritual the village-priest tells the story or legend connected with it. This is followed by singing and dancing in accompaniment of drum (madal), cymbal etc. The dance performance full of vigour and energy combined with charm of the youth decked with colourful costumes in exuberance of red cloth, set in peacock feathers, skillfully designed ornaments made of small conch shells, brings the onlookers as well as the performers to a mood of trance and ecstasy. In this dance both men and women take part and continue to engross themselves for the whole night. The skillful movement of the young boys with mirror in hand indicates the traditional pattern of love-making in course of dancing and singing. The dance is performed sometimes by boys in group, sometimes by girls in group and sometimes both the sexes together. The subject matter of songs constitutes the description of nature, invocation to Karmasani, desires, aspiration of people, love and humour.
The Karma dance continues from dusk to dawn. Group after group drawn from nearby villages dance alternately throughout the night. In the early morning they carry the Karam branches singing and dancing and then immerse them ceremonially in a river or tank and then disperse.
The technique of the Karma dance varies a little from tribe to tribe. The Kharias, Kisans and Oraons dance in a circular pattern, where men and women dance together. It is always headed by a leader and generally the men at the head of the line. Only the best of dancers join in right next to or near him. Very young girls and children join in at the tail end to learn the steps. When the dancing grows fast the dancers of the tail end drop out to let the true dancers show their skill. The dancers hold hands in different ways in different dances. Sometimes they simply hold hands and sometimes hands are placed on the neighbour's waist band or are crossed. It is the legs and the feet which play the principal part in the dance. The dance begins lightly with simple steps forward and backward, left and right, then gradually the steps grow smaller and faster, growing more and more complicated, until that dance reaches its height. Then it goes gradually to the first steps as the music leads to give dancers rest. The dancers have no special costume for the occasion. They dance wtih their usual costumes which they wear daily.
The dance is usually held in the courtyard of a village where performance is arranged. In the centre of the courtyard a bamboo is fixed and it is split into four upto a certain height and then bent to form the arches. Each split is fixed with a pole on the outerside to form the earch. Then it is decorated with festoons of mango leaves and water lilies giving it a festive look. The ground is neatly plastered with cow-dung. Men and women dance winding in an out beneath the arches.
Kathinacha or Stick dance is common all over India. In Odisha (Formerly Orissa) they are of two varieties, one with comparatively long sticks and the other with short sticks. The former with long sticks is performed by the cowherd community of coastal Odisha (Formerly Orissa). Dusserah, Giri Gobardhan Puja and Dol Yatra (Holi) are the important festivals on the occasion of which the dance is performed by the young boys. they weave out different geometrical patterns with simultaneous tapping of sticks and singing of traditional songs relating to the sports of Lord Krishna.
The other type with smaller sticks is performed by the people of the scheduled class of Mayurbhanj and Bolangir. In this, the sticks are about two feet in length and are made of resonant wood to produce percussion. The sticks are held on pairs. The dancers are all young boys who standing in a line, begin their dance, striking each other sticks according to the rhythm of the madal. Two or more singers and drummers move with the dancers. Following the rhythm of the madal, they increase the speed of various movements until the dance ends in a crescendo of sound produced by the sharp taps of the sticks. Makar Sankranti and Nua Khai festivals are the occasions for this dance. In the district of Bolangir, this is known as Kalanga when the dancers wear costumes like the Karma dancers of the Binjhala community.
Kedu dance of the Kondhas performed on the occasion of Kedu festival is a continuance of Meria festival. The meria (human) sacrifice of the Kondhas, a notable event in history and the most popular tradition of the tribe perhaps surpassing others, has been substituted by Kedu sacrifice retaining the other aspects of rituals as they were. This dance is ritualistic in character connected with the ceremony in honour of Dharani Penu who is believed to be the bestower of good fortune, good crops, protector of the people and their livestock. The people have the belief that sprinkling of blood and bloodstained face of Kedu (buffalo) in the turmeric field reddens the colour of turmeric like blood. In this performance women dancers standing in a semi circle and holding each other with hands on each others shoulder while the male members sing songs and play on the drums and flutes. The musical instruments used are Dhol, Changu, Nishan and Mahuri and the songs in Kui language are mainly devotional.
The Kelas are a nomadic class of people in Odisha (Formerly Orissa). Except for a few months in the year they remain out of their homes. Originally they are snake-charmers and bird-catchers who roam about the countryside to earn their livelihood. Besides, they also display tight-rope walking and other varieties of gymnastic events along with dance and songs. In the dance only two persons take part, a Kela and Keluni (a female of the tribe). The Kela plays a peculiar string instrument Ghuduki which produces a peculiar sound. He works out rhythms by playing his fingers in strokes on a string. He dances with the Keluni and also sings. The dance of the Keluni is fast with swaying movements of legs, hips and the head. There are also exalted action in half-sitting position. Generally it is she who carries the show. The songs are of a special variety and are popularly known as Kela-Keluni Geeta in which love and humour predominate. This dance is fast dying out. But it is being adopted by professional Yatra troupes and other groups of entertainers.
Associated with the cult of Lord Krishna, Krishna leela has a deep religious flavour. People in the village communities in certain parts of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) join in singing and dancing to the accompaniment of mridanga and cymbals. This is performed particularly on the occasion of Holi and Rasa Purnima. Different episodes of Krishna legend are performed in leela. Through the chanting of songs and dancing to its tune in accompaniment of the musical instruments a serene atmosphere is created.
This is a mask-dance most common during the religious processions in the coastal districts of Odisha (Formerly Orissa). During Dusserah, Dol Purnima (Holi), Kalipooja, Rama Navami, Sahi Yatra and other festivals when the idols are taken out in procession for congregation (Melan) or immersion, mask-dancers join the procession. The procession halts at market places and road-crossings, thereby allowing to show their skill. Huge masks of demons, Raja and Rani (King and the Queen) etc. made out of paper pulp and painted bright are worn by the dancers who dance to the rhythm of Changu and Dhol.
The most virile and spectacular dance during the religious processions in the district of Puri is known as Naga dance. Generally young and energetic men are chosen for the dance. The costume is heavy and elaborate. The dancer wears a huge head-gear profusely decorated with silver ornaments and a false beard almost covering the face. Multi-coloured attached in two bamboo sticks are tightly fitted to the arms. With jerky movement of the shoulders he dances in heroic steps. Sometimes he holds a gun. He moves at the head of the procession along with the drummers who provide rhythm to his movements.
The word paika is derived from the Sanskrit word Padatika meaning the infantry, and hence the name of the dance is battle (paika) dance (nrutya). In the olden days the powerful Ganga and Gajapati rulers of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) extended their territory from the river Ganges in the north to the Godavari in the south with the help of a vast army of valiant Paikas. They were not in the regular payroll of the army, but received huge land grants from the kings and the chieftains. They formed the rank of a peasant-militia. Though agriculture was their main occupation they used to keep themselves prepared by regular practice and training in war techniques. Several village-groups were under the command of a Dala Behera or group-commander.
Most of the Paika villages of Odisha (Formerly Orissa), spread all over the state have maintained the older tradition of Paika Akhada - the village gymnasium where young people assemble in the evening after the day's work. Along with traditional physical exercises, they dance with sword and shield in hand to the accompaniment of the country-drum. The primary aim of this dance was the development of physical excitment and consequently courage, in the dancing warriors. In ancient times this was unconsciously a rehearsal of battle.
During Dussera all the Akhadas celebrate their annual festival. In several prosperous villages display of traditional gymnastics, acrobatics and the dance by various village-groups are arranged on competitive basis. Each group participates with great enthusiasm. For all such displays, special grounds are prepared with soft earth sprinkled with oil and water.
Needless to say that the tradition of this dance carried to the contiguous tribal belt of Mayurbhanj, Sareikela and Purulia, and has developed into the magnificent dance of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) called 'Chhau'.
Pala, a very popular performance associated with the mixed cult of Satyapir, has wide distribution in Odisha (Formerly Orissa). Its origin goes back to Muslim-mughal period when assimilation of Satya Narayan of Hindu pantheon with Pir of Muhammadanism, brought about a synthetic cult known as Satyapir. This is an instance to show the inter-change of cultural traits between Hinduism and Islam resulting in subduing to a great extext the intolerance and anticism of Muslims. As a consequence of this fusion the Hindus became the disciples of the Muslim gurus or Fakirs and adopted worship pattern of some Hidnu deities and vice versa.
Satyanarayan is an incarnation of Vishnu, and Pir is an oldman or preceptor of Muslims who established a religious sect at Persia. The Fakir considered to be the incarnation of Satyapir, exercised a tremendous influence on the common people of Muslim and Hindu sects. The propitiation of this deity is intended for well-being of the people.
A story with regard to the origin of Satyapir is recorded in the Pala of Krishna Haridas. According to this interesting story, king Maidanab's virgin daughter Sandhyabati while taking a dip in the river, saw a flower floating and by smelling it she became pregnant. When her parents were aware of the fact, they took it a serious offence and drove her away. Under orders from Satyapir still in the womb, Hanila built a palace for Sandhyabati where she gave birth to a ball of bloody flesh. She threw it away into the river. A she-tortoise swallowed it up, gave birth to Satyapir and went to heaven after death. Kusaleswar, the Purohit of Maidanab brought him up with care. One day while taking a walk on the bank of the river Nur, Satyapir found a manuscript of Koran. The Brahmin asked him to keep that book in its former place as it should not be touched by a sacred Brahmin. The boy argued and concluded that there was no difference between a Purana and Koran. Hinduism and Islam are not hostile to each other.
The cult of Satyapir is so popular in Orissan culture, the Puranas and popular literature profusely mention it and the supernatural powers endowed on the deity.
We have two types of Pala in Odisha (Formerly Orissa) - the Baithaki (sitting) and the Thia (standing). The Thia pala is taken to be the developed form of Danda Nata. The group of performers consisting of six persons including the Bayak, or the drummer (playing on the Mrudanga) and the chief singer known as Gayaka. The side singers with their cymbals sing and dance explaining the meaning of the verses to the audience. The performance begins with invocation to Satyanarayan followed by the story of Puranas or epics embellished with poems of different poets. The Pala songs are the compositions of the local poets and recited in the appropriate places during the performance.
In a Pala performance, songs of various types in different styles predominate the dance which on the other hand, is the expression of simple rhythm to the tune of music. Pala is normally ritualistic in character and is performed on the occasion of worship of Satyanarayan but now-a-days it is performed on important festive occasions. The performers, be it in an urban area or in the folk area, draws a large audience. The interesting theme of Pala, the lyrical diction of the poets exhibited in a charming manner in melodious voice, the songs of humour with the use of local dialects, the depiction of humorous story, the skillful play of mridanga, the charming and colourful dress of Gayak and palias make the audience spellbound.
Patua jatra, similar to that of Pala, is a well known form prevalent among the low caste people. The festival of Patua continues from the 23rd day of the month of Chaitra to the fifteenth day of Vaisakha in honour of Gauri or Mangala. This festivel dance organised in honour of Sarala of Jhankada, Mangala of Kakatapur, Charchika of Banki, Cuttack Chandi of Cuttack appears to have been meant for Sakta Goddesses. The Kalisi or Saman of the deity is engaged in times of epidemic and other natural calamity. The Patua's songs depict the stories of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas and more recently the songs of the medieval and modern poets. The simple songs so used are called 'pada bandia' and the other type 'artha bandia' which is a jugglery of words conveying deeper meaning. The traditional mirdanga has been adopted for the performance of the second type. This is recently been influenced by the Pala.
Puppet dance known as Kandhei or Sakhi Nacha, a rare and unusual type of stylised indigenous drama and dance based on mythological stories, is being performed even today in various parts of Odisha (Formerly Orissa). The puppets are usually the representations of various characters and animals of a particular drama. It is difficult to speak anything about its origin but undoubtedly it is an old art. The making of dolls with paintings, dresses and ornaments is a typical folk art for the enjoyment of people of all categories. Together with puppets there evolved another art popularly known as the expressive shadow plays which has the added advantage of being able to cater to large audiences. The puppetry of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) may be classified into three categories, such as hand puppets, string puppets and rod puppets.
Rama Leela, a very popular theatrical performance of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) as elsewhere in India, being religious in character, retains all its religious significance. The theme of the performance is derived from the Ramayana. In some places the performers use masks and there are others who do not use them. We have no information with regard to the origin of this type of performance in Odisha (Formerly Orissa) but on the basis of availability of vast mass of Rama literature in palmleaf manuscripts, iconographic representation of Rama and his associates on the temple walls, presence of Hanuman images in various sacred places, the popularity of Ramayana in folk and sophisticated society, give a clear indication of continuity of the tradition of Rama Leela. The form of performance as we notice in the coastal belt of Odisha (Formerly Orissa), is as old as other folk performances. Of course, in the present day performance many other items of Jatra have been incorporated to gain a mass appeal.
Popular among the coastal areas of Ganjam district, this dance receives its name after the bamboo sticks carried for support. The young village dancers standing on the sticks, dance with utmost ease and show remarkable skill in balance and agility to the accompaniment of Dhol and Mahuri.
This type of dance prevalent in Western part of Odisha (Formerly Orissa) is a standardised performance of singing, playing on the musical instrument which looks like Mridanga but bigger in size and Jhanja locally known as (Kartal), and dancing. The peculiarity of this performance is that the performer displays his capability in gayana, badana and nartan. One cannot be an expert performer in the Bahaka dance unless he acquires adequate knowledge in these three aspects. The tuning of the songs, the stepping movement of feet and rhythmic playing of the musical instruments make the performance very interesting and charming. Bhajan, Janana, Chhanda, Chaupadi and Sanskrit slokas are recited while dancing. The main performer is assisted by another player who is known as palia Bahaka. This type of dance is generally arranged on social and festive occasions.