Bhubaneswar: Folklore and art in Odisha are sure to mesmerize you at any point in time. The performing arts in remotest areas are usually some of the most captivating ones largely responsible for maintaining the socio-cultural fabric. However, these are slowly sinking into oblivion with very few people practising them.
Odisha Sun Times has listed out a few of them, which are dying for lack of patronage and needs to be revived again.
Dasakathia: Performed by two, Dasakathia is a miniature version of Pala. It involves a Gayaka (singer) and a Palia (accompanist), who perform holding a pair of sticks in their hands. They sing in chorus the invocatory verses composed by the local poets. Dasakathia comes from the two words, Dasa meaning worshipper and Kathia meaning two pieces of stick producing a rhythmic sound. The Dasas, with turbans on their heads and a long silken coat, attract the listeners by their gestures and postures.
Ghoomra Dance: Ghoomra Nata/dance, is performed with the drum named Ghoomra, which is like a big pitcher with a long stem made of clay and godhi (a reptile) skin is used to cover the mouth. Fifteen days before Gamha Purnima (full moon in September) young men of various communities, dance simultaneously playing the Ghoomra, tied to their chests.
Medha Nacha: Popular in the coastal regions of Odisha, Medha Nacha is usually performed at the congregation/immersion of idols during Dussehra, Holi, Kali pooja and Ram Navami, etc. Clad in huge colourful masks of demons, kings and queens, that they prepare with paper and pulp, men dance to the rhythms of Changu and Dhol.
Pala: This interesting performing art, usually performed while worshipping Lord Satyanarayan or on other festive occasions, is associated with ‘Satyapir’, a mixed cult mentioned widely about in Purana and popular literary works in Odisha. Satyapir is the assimilation of Hindu god, Satyanarayan and preceptor of Islam, Pir.
This performance is usually of two types- Baithaki (sitting) and Thia (standing) in which a group of six men, including the chief singer, Gayaka, the drummer, Bayak and side singers, perform explaining the meaning of the verses. The performance starts with an invocation of Satyanarayana, followed by a recitation of stories and epics embellished with poems composed by local poets.
Puppet Dance: Popularly known as Sakhi Kandhei Nacha, this unusual performing art is usually based on mythology. Hand puppets, string puppets and rod puppets are the three kinds of puppetry you’ll find. The colourful puppets are used to portray the characters of the story they tell.
Ravana Chhaya: A rare form of shadow puppetry show, Ravana Chhaya (Shadow of Ravana) is now practised only in Odash village of Odisha’s Angul district. This puppetry show, which tells the tale of Rama or the Epic Ramayana, was a popular performance art in Angul and Dhenkanal in the late 19th century but has been fading ever since. It is named ‘Ravana Chhaya’ because people believe, Ram being a divine soul can never cast a shadow.
Prahlad Natak: Colloquially known as Raja Nata, this unique performing art is found mostly in Odisha’s Ganjam. It depicts the story of Prahlad’s devotion to Vishnu and the killing of Hiranya Kashyap by Vishnu’s avatar Narasimha. Sanskritised songs and dialogues in Carnatic raag with characters dancing on stage (Mancha) in an upward and downward movement on the stepping stage, make it look magnificent.
Various other performing arts of Odisha like the Naga Dance of Puri, Danda Nata, Bagha Nacha or animal mask dance, and Ghanta Patua are also on the verge being confined only to books with their fading popularity.