Resting for about twelve months, spring comes with sheer joy and happiness. Usually spring arrives during the month of March and April with various fairs and festivals. And then the whole of orissa dances. Among these dances forms, “Danda Nacha’ is very popular in the Western part of Orissa. Weaving religion and theatre together, Danda Nacha forms a part of the rich folk tradition of Orissa.
At the time of Goddess Bashakti’s Chaitra Festival this ‘Danda Nacha’ is celebrated in a grand manner with much enthusiasm. Performed over a period stretching over thirteen days, Danda Nacha is a robust show of devotion to Lord Shiva and Goddess Kali. This dance festival is regularly held by an old traditional orgnaizaion ‘Danda’. People also celebrate Danda Brata Rudrakali Brata, Rudrakali fasting, Mesu along with Danda Nacha Jatra which are very popular among local audiences. In Western Orissa, this is popularly known as ‘Dan’ or Kosali Dan’. It can be regarded as both traditional and contemporary. The opening ritual beings in the middle of Chaitra (March-April) and continues till the “Meru Sankranti’ variously known as “Bisuba Sankranti’, ‘Pana Sankranti’, etc.
Goddess Kali is the main deity worshipped during Danda Nacha. So all the Shvia Temples of every village becomes the centre of all activities. All those bound by a pledge a silent, inward pledge known as ‘Sahami’ to join the Danda Nacha troupe assemble at the Temple clad in white linen. Beside the temple, there is a hall called Kamana Ghara or Danda Ghara. A yajna is conducted there with offerings to the holy fire accompanied by the chanting of mantras. When the yajna is over the priest offers a sacred thread to each dandua. For the moment they wear that thread and became the member of one family irrespective of every caste, called the ‘Tera Budhuta’.
After performing in the inaugrual rituals, the above troupe leaves for a procession by beating the ‘dhol’ (a drum like instrument) ‘Jhanja’ (Cymbal) and ‘mahuri’ (A Shehnai type of instrument). Proceeding the procession goes towards a few furlongs away from the Temple. They also hold flags of many hues, bunches of peacock feathers, a painting of Goddess Kali fixed to bamboo pole and a torch made from strw lit in the yajna fired called Chama Bara. Even during mid-day, they perform ‘Dhuli Danda’ which leterally means ‘Penance on the Sand’ for about three hours. After the ‘Dhuli Dnada’, the Tera Budhuta proceed towards a near by tank to perform ‘Pani Danda’ which means ‘Penance by the Water’
During the thirteen-day period, the Danduas live on the frugal vegetarian meal a day. During this the drums keep on playing, for the “tera Budhuta’ are supposed to eat with utmost concentration and no other sound is expected to reach their ears when they eat. After their meal they prepare for their nocturnal performance.
When the party reaches its destination, the Pata Budhuta the head of the troupe, performs an extremely vigorous dance in the ‘Tandava’ sty.e This dance ritual, known as Parabha, literally meaning ‘illumination’ is followed by the main theatre programme ‘Chadherya Nata’ a folk dram with a tribal youth as it protagonist. Danda Nach is prevalent in several parts of Orissa, but the treatment of the Chdheya Nata them is not uniform. It is mostly wide spread in the Ganjam district of South Orissa.
On the ‘Meru Sankranti’ day the party returns to their village. Then they perform their usual “Dhuli Danda’ in front of a house holder of the village. And son after this they perform another breath taking ritual at “Kamana Ghar’. A yajana is performed and a structure with thee poles, two on the either side of the yajna pit and the third one at the top connecting the tow is set up. After the chanting of incarnation, a ‘Tera Budhuta’ is made to swing on the horizontal pole above, putting his head down wards and body bent at the keen, tied till a few drops of blood oozing through his nostrils are wiped away and in a half-conscious state. That night the Chadheya Nata is enacted for the last time. Then the following morning the “Tera Budhuta’ discarded their threads, they have been warning since the inaugural day during their bath. And that marks the final countdown. Finally, they share a common feast in which non-vegetarian dishes are served.