Berhampur, Apr 14 (UNI) Come spring and Ganjam comes alive for three weeks with 'Danda Nacha', where groups of people dance barefoot on the streets undeterred by the scorching heat to appease Goddess Kali.
The rhythm of the drums, cymbals and conch shells reverberate in the air as the traditional dance reached a crescendo of religious fervour and culminated yesterday on 'Maha Bishub Sankranti'.
'Danda' means self-inflicted punishment, which the 'Danduas', the dancers, undergo to pay their obeisance to Maa Kali.
People also worship Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati. The 'Danduas' undergo a lot of pain and hardship to appease the Goddess as they believe she would fulfill their desires.
While some others do it to show their gratitude to the Goddesses for having fulfilled their desires, 'manasikas'(pre-ordained vows).
The dance is performed in Ganjam and some other districts in the month of 'Chaitra' and boasts of a pristine heritage. It begins 13, 18 or 21 days before 'Bisuba Sankranti' and culminated on 'Meru Sankranti'.
Historians believe it originated about 400 years ago. The dance is performed in three phases including 'Dhuli Danda', 'Pani Danda' and 'Agni Danda'.
While the 'Dhuli Danda' takes place in the afternoon when the 'Danduas' roll bare bodied on the hot soil under the scorching sun.
During sunset, they assemble at a nearby pond to perform rituals of 'Pani Danda'.
With the arrival of night 'Agni Danda' comes with its marvelously awe-inspiring rituals, which enthralls the onlookers.
The Danduas generally stay near a temple or some sacred place and stay away from their near and dear ones to concentrate on worshipping.
They move out from their stay in the morning amidst beating of drums and blowing of conch and trumpet. When they move in rows with red and yellow flags locals seek their blessings.
'Danduas' perform on the streets and in front of one house each day when they asked to do so by a particular house owner. The dance takes place in groups consisting of 40 to 100 'Danduas'. The head of the group called 'Bada Patta Dandua' or 'Bada Patta Bhukta'.
The dance group is very carefully selected. There is a strict dress code with the use of only white, yellow or saffron. The deities are carried in a small red box and are fanned by peacock plumes.
The 'Danduas' eat only once in a day and they do not even take water till 'Pani Danda' in the evening. Although the dance is very ritualistic, there is no caste bar for participants.
According to mythology, 13 sons of the great saint Tarani in 'Tretaya Yug' practicised self-inflicted 'punishment' to appease Lord Brahma, who cursed them for their misdeed.
Another legend says 13 sons of Indra and Kubera criticized the figure of saint Astabakra, who cursed them to born in 'Martya' and suffer a lot.
The son of Indra who took birth as a bird hunter died in snakebite masterminded by Lord Shiva. He helped to kill the bird-hunter after the birds prayed 'Garuda' who prayed Lord Shiva to find a way out.
But the bird hunter regained his life after his two wives worshiped Maa Kali and Lord Shiva.
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