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Danda Nata

Danda nacha being performed on stage

Danda Nata of Orissa, also known as the 'Danda Jatra’ is one of the most ancient folk dance of orissa and is performed in the district of Ganjam. The jatra is performed for a period of 13- 21 days. The participants of Danda Nata are usually called "Dandua" and the chief as "Pata Dandua" who move from village to village to perform the same. It is dedicated to Lord Siva and Goddess Kali, who is represented by a Danda or a Pole, decorated with `different colored clothes. The participant perform Pani Danda , Agni Danda, Dhuli Danda etc, which are the main attractions of the said performance. The closing ceremony is known as "Meruyatra", which is observed on the day of Maha Vishuba Sankranti of Chaitra.The festival is famous highly popular in Orissa.

Danda means a pole, nata means dance. The Danda Nata practiced basically to appease the Lord Shiva involves dance, song and physical feats as a means to please Him. There is no caste distinction in Danda Nata. Whoever desires may join it without any fear of excommunication from the orthodox society. The performers are all called ‘Bhoktas’. There are 13 Bhoktas in a Danda Party. The leader is called “Pata-Bhokta.” He leads an ascetic life for 21 days, avoids all contact with woman or anything worldly. He takes very light food probably for making his body fit for severe exercises. The Bhoktas move from village to village. To sweep the varandah with cowdung-water at once at the sight of the party signifies its invitation for performance. The householder who invites them is either childless or poor or suffering from some incurable disease. The performers bear all troubles to draw the kind attention of Siva towards the devotee. They roll on the hot sand in midday sun of the summer, dance and sing without any sign of suffering in their faces. Then they take their bath, and pray to God for fulfilling the devotee’s wishes.

Many difficult physical feats are done to draw His kind attention upon the mortal. They do not care for the bodily trouble. What concerns them most is to appease the God who may redress their sufferings. Some pierce sharp iron nails on their back, look upside down without any sign of pain in the face. Some devotees use poisonous snakes as garland; make them sting their body without any disastrous results. Others tie their legs up, and hang upside down making their heads roll on the burning fire. Fire walking, walking on the sharp sword and other difficult practices performed in the month of Chaitra and Baisak are all meant to please Siva. It is believed that Fasting in the month of Chaitra and Baisak and worshipping Siva with all devotion bring into the worshipper wealth, children and glory to the race.

 

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