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Odissi Music, Odissi Dance, Animal Mask, Baunsa Rani, Chaiti Ghoda, Changu Nata, Chhau, Dalkhai, Danda Nata, Dasakathia, Dhanu Jatra, Ghanta Patua, Ghoomra, Jhoomar, Karma, Kathinacha, Kedu, Kela Keluni, Krishna Leela, Medha Nacha, Naga Dance, Paika Nrutya, Pala, Patua Jatra, Puppet Dance, Rama Leela, Ranappa, Samprada

Animal Mask Dance:

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Animal Mask Dances are prevalent in village of south 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:


Baunsa Rani DanceBaunsarani 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.

Chaiti Ghoda Dance:


Chaitighoda Nacha (Horse dance in the month of Chaitra):
This folk items is connected with the Sakti cult of coastal 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 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 Dance:


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.

Dalkhai Dance:


Though Dusserah is the occasion of Dalkhai, the most popular folk-dance of the western parts of 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 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.


Dhanu Jatra:


Dhanu JatraA 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!

Ghanta Patua:


For the whole month of Chaitra the village streets in 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 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 Dance:

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Ghoomra DanceGhoomra 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.


Jhoomar Dance:


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.

Karma Dance:


Karama DanceKaram 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 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 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:


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.

Kela Keluni:


The Kelas are a nomadic class of people in 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.

Krishna Leela:

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Associated with the cult of Lord Krishna, Krishna leela has a deep religious flavour. People in the village communities in certain parts of 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.

Medha Nacha:


This is a mask-dance most common during the religious processions in the coastal districts of 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.

Naga Dance:


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.


Paika Nrutya:


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 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 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 Orissa called 'Chhau'.



Pala, a very popular performance associated with the mixed cult of Satyapir, has wide distribution in 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 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:

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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:


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 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 Orissa may be classified into three categories, such as hand puppets, string puppets and rod puppets.

Ram Leela:


Rama Leela, a very popular theatrical performance of 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 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 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.

Ranapa Dance:


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.

Samprada Dance:


This type of dance prevalent in Western part of 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.


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