‘Danduas' go around performing 'penance' in rural, urban areas for 21 days
BERHAMPUR: Danda Nata, the festival of hard penance has started in Ganjam and Kandhamal districts of south Orissa. Hundreds of troupesof 'Danduas' are now moving around urban and rural areas of these districts. They are dressed in orange or yellow dhotis. They hold red flags in hand and walk with the sound of drums.
The Danda Nata troupes perform their rituals on the roads during the day. At the very spot makeshift stages are erected for theatre shows during night. Households and bazaar committees invite these Danda Nata troupes to perform Danda Nata in their area as worship to the mother goddess.
As peace has started to come back in Kandhamal district the administration has allowed procession and festivities related to Danda Nata in the area. But the police and administration have ordered the organisers to refrain from resorting to any activity during Danda Nata, which may hurt the sentiments of minority community living in the area.
The Danda Nata festivities are to continue till April 14. Usually the Danduas take up hard penance during Chaitra to please the mother goddess for some material or mental wish.
Some times even small children can be seen taking part in this hard process. The period of Danda Nata starts 21 days before the Mahabishuv Sankranti. The Danduas get collected under a leader who is called Pata Bhokta. They have only a single meal a day, that too at midnight. The meal comprises only rice and dal.
During the whole day they perform hard rituals as part of the penance under the Pata bhokta. Under the scorching sun they perform Dhuli Danda, which includes symbolic building of temples, digging ponds, agricultural works etc. After that they have to perform rituals standing in the waters of a pond for hours together, which are called Pani Danda.
At night they dance with fire in their hand, which is called Agni Danda. Households and localities invite these Danda Nata troupes to perform Danda Nata in their area as worship to the mother goddess.