Berhampur, April 7 (LocalWire): While the scorching heat was getting to the people, here were some people rolling in the dust with the mid-day sun blazing above. This is a very common sight in Ganjam.
People clad in yellow or saffron walk barefoot for miles to perform the Danda Nata, a popular seasonal folk dance, practiced by the people in the district to worship the Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti.
The 21-day long (in some places for 13 days) dance will come to end on Maha Visubha Shankranti on April 14.
Drawn from various castes, thousands of participants, known as danduas, believe the God and Goddess will only fulfill their desires if they go through extreme physical sufferings and austerities.
Besides performing dances under the hot mid-day sun, which is known as Dhuli Danda the Danduas also perform dance in the ponds during the evening which is called Pani Danda, and walk on fire or the Agni Danda at midnight.
They eat only once at midnight and spend sleepless nights. The danduas greet each other as bhokta (follower) and rushi putra (son of saints). The leader of the group is called a Pata dandua or Pata bhokta, who leads a life of abstinence for 21 days prior to the festival.
‘We do not face any difficulties during the period due as we are blessed by the God and Goddess,’ said Narayan Behera, a dandua in Panchudeula Street, here.
At night, danduas perform various cultural programmes like dance and theatre to entertain the people. ‘We perform for the people since they bear all the entertainment costs,’ said Santosh Pradha, another dandua.
Although the Danda Nata is popular in Ganjam and Kandhamal districts, the folk dance experts, however, could not ascertain the origins of the dance. ‘It is very difficult to say about the origin of the Danda Nata,’ said Hrusikesh Panigrahi, a folk dance research scholar.