Archive for October, 2011

Kothisala: Unique Folk dance from Ganjam

Kothisala Dance of orissa

Kothisala Dance of orissa

Orissa  is a land of  amazing diversities. The land once a seat of divergent cultural  essence , has shown uncanny ability in retaining  its heritage in form of unique  art forms . Kothasala is one such form of performing art that gives expression to the Oriya identity while managing to retain its ancient Oriya flavor.

And what’s so unique about Kothasala is the fact that in an age when many folk dance and music forms are dying, Kothisala not only survives, but also is also immensely popular in Ganjam. Local groups in the district have kept the age-old rural form of folk dance alive by organising Kothisala Yatra annually since the last five decades.

Held in the months of Ashwin and Kartik every year, Kothisala Yatra starts on Dussehra and lasts till Kartik Purnima for 35 days. Women collect five pots of water from a tank and place them near the temple wall for consecration. Then begins the Kothisala dance. This involves diverse activities of artistic significance. The centre of Kothisala is a community hall known as Kotha. Its walls are painted with illustrations by folk artists. The theme of the murals is “Lord Shiva and his consort”.

Clad in a sari, a young man carries a pot of water on his head and dances in a particular way. Artistes sing and dance during the nights. An improvised musical instrument called Dhana Koila, which is made out of an earthen pot known as kula, along with a bow and an arrow with ankle bells, is played. The principal participant of the song and repartee session is known as Gaani and he plays the Dhana Koila.

Kothisala is a ritualistic dance in honour of Goddess Mangala. As such songs from the hindu scriptures like the  Astadasa Puran along with the  Chanda and Champus by poet Upendra Bhanja are sung. The interactive dance and song involves the question-answer session between the Gaani and a Palia or Devata.

The dance is still  a popular mode of entertainment in Ganjam and people from Ganjam relish the Kothisala festivities. In fact there are around 78 groups of performing Kothisala groups in  Ganjam with five performing artistes in each group.

The number in itself is an indicator of the fact that despite the onslaught of modern forms of entertainment and the rising penetration of  broadcasting media into people’s lives, Kothisala still manages to hold it’s place close to people’s heart.


No Love Lost in The Animal Kingdom

Monkey Holding a Kitten

Monkey Holding a Kitten

People of Keonjhar town have been gathering to get a rare glimpse of an affectionate bond between a monkey and a kitten, who seem to be behaving like a mother and child, onlookers felt.

The monkey has been moving around town for the past two days, holding the kitten close to its chest. Onlookers report that the monkey can be witnessed kissing the kitten frequently like it was its own baby. The monkey does not allow the kitten to leave, nor does it allow anyone else to go near it. When people gather around to watch them or some kids try to grab the kitten from it, the monkey turns furious and runs away to a higher place or climbs upon a tree. For the residents of the small town, it is an unforgettable scene and people from nearby areas have started thronging en masse to catch a glimpse of the duo.

The kitten also seems to be very comfortable in the arms of the monkey and is seen sitting on its lap as if it were the mother. Experts on animal behavior however attribute this behavior of the monkey to unique penchant of certain animals for inter-species affection.  Some people seem to agree with this viewpoint as they claim having seen the monkey fondling a duckling a few months back too.

Whatever be the reason, the spectacle is generating great interest among the residents. And to the passerby, it has become a sort of ritual to offer ground nuts, banana and other food items to the monkey. Apart from the local residents and visitors, the monkey has greatly attracted the attention of the local media and reporters seem glad to cover the SUPER Monkey in their publications.


A Noiseless Diwali in This Village of Orissa

Lighting Earthen Lamps in Diwali

Lighting Lamps in Diwali is the only way to celebrate for residents of Nabapatana village

At a time when the entire nation is will be celebrating dipawali by bursting crackers, the residents of Nabapatana village in Jagatsinghpur in Orissa will be celebrating it by simply lighting lamps( diyas).

For the villagers of this small hamlet, who themselves are master fire cracker manufacturers, celebrating diwali simply by lighting lamps is the only way to commemorate the festival of lights. Residents here observe the ceremonial rites such as paying obeisance to ancestors and lighting earthen lamps. But burning of firecrackers during Diwali has been stopped since the past seven years.

Rattled  by a major  fire mishap that happened some seven years ago, which killed a trader and injured several others, the villagers vowed to  light earthen lamps only in the dipawali. Earthen lamps and candles, thus adorn the doorsteps of households as part of Diwali rituals. But there is no ear-splitting noise of crackers bursting in the village.

The accident which happened on  October 19, 2004 took the village, which had been a center of producing fire crackers under seize and more than 20 villagers suffered severe burn injuries while a trader was killed. The incident sent shockwaves through the entire community. The village committee had resolved to stop the tradition of bursting firecrackers. Since then, firecrackers have not been burned here.

Residents of the village today have now got accustomed to a noiseless and pollution free diwali. Locals for neighboring villages have slowly started taking a leaf from Nabapatana village and are curtailing the over use of crackers in diwali too.



Celebrating Diwali the Oriya Way

As a state with culture and history that is  significantly different from other regions of the country, Orissa has its own set of festivals

Burning Kaunriyas in Diwali day in Orissa

Burning Kaunriyas in Diwali day in Orissa

and festivities that are unique only to this part of the globe. The same holds true for the Festival of lights “ Diwali”.

While diwali is celebrated with much fanfare in different parts ofIndiaby lighting lamps and bursting crackers, traditionally in Orissa, it has been a a day of invoking ancestors  and performing the kaunria ritual. Associated with Lord Jagannath, the ritual stand on the belief that by paying obeisance to our forefathers, we receive their blessings on this auspicious day. Thus as a festival in Orissa, Diwali  is an occasion to pay homage to our forefathers .

In every Oriya home, the day starts with drawing rangolis  in front of the house. The Rangoli is drawn  in the shape of sailboat on the ground in front of their house  and is filled with items like cotton, salt, mustard, asparagus root, turmeric and a wild creeper.However in the central chamber, prasad is placed and over which a diya of a jute stem with cloth wick is lit. This marks the beginning of puja. “Tarpana” – the ritual meant to invoke the  spirits of the ancestors.Immediately after the dusk, all members of household gather for lighting kaunria ( pith of the jute plant). A lighting lamp is placed inside an earthen pot that is tied to a pole erected in front of the house . All the members then hold a  bunch of jute stick in their hands and lit them from the fire from main diya i.e. the diya kept over prasad and raise the bunch towards the sky chanting the following verse. And then in presence of every members of the house, a bundle of the the kaunria is lit during the puja and raised skywards accompanied with the chant: “Badbadua ho and Haara re aasa aalua re jaa “meaning  O forefathers come in the dark of the evening ,we light your way to the heaven! The significance of the ritual is that we show respect to our ancestors who reinforce their absence from the physical world by our presence.

Although the tradition of lighting kaunria still exists in some parts of Chattisgarh,Biharand Uttar Pradesh, it is religiously followed in Orissa. Kaunria draws its significance from the religious tradition of the Jagannath culture. It is prepared from the Jute Plant. It is generally believed that Lord Jagannath had bestowed his blessings  on eight plants. These plants are called the “ Asta Paata Sakhi” of the Lord. Jute being one of the eight, has its own importance in accentuating the Jagannath culture.

Another belief that holds its sway with the ritual is that , during the Dark moon day of Diwali, earth on its southwards movement towards the Tropic of Capricon, comes close to a place in the space where our forefathers reside after death. The realm is submerged in darkness and by lighting the kaunria sticks  this day, we honor the departed souls. The worshipper who lights kaunria faces southwards in the north east corner of  his house. In a matter of seconds, the sticks leap into prominient flame  providing light and warmth to the ancestors. They thus shower their blessings on us.

Whatever be the belief and however illogical it may sound to the modern logical mind, it is a fact that in today’s world when mana hardly as time left to think of anything else apart from his own self and interest, festival of burning the Kaunria stick brings us closer to our past and makes us realize that we are  present because once our ancestors were once present in the world.


Mamata Scheme Launched by Naveen Patnaik in Orissa

Mamata Scheme for Pregnant Women Launched in Orissa

Mamata Scheme for Pregnant Women Launched in Orissa

Continuing with his spree of pre-panchayat poll sops for rural Orissa, chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday launched the ambitious Mamata Scheme, a conditional electronic cash transfer program for benefit of pregnant women in the state.

Naveen said pregnant women registered with anganwadi centers will receive Rs 5000 in four installments under the scheme. It aims not only at reducing infant mortality and maternal rates but also help in improving the nutrition status of pregnant women and newborn babies. “The installments have been designed to ensure that a pregnant woman gets cash assistance every 3 months after her second trimester. The last installment would be given on completion of measles immunization. This, I hope would greatly improve the total immunization coverage of all our children,” Naveen added.

More than 50,000 pregnant women received their first installment of Rs 1500 on the inaugural day, official sources said.


The state government had announced the scheme, modeled on an ongoing initiative in Tamil Nadu, some time back and registration of pregnant women commenced from September 5. “It is heartening to note that within a span of one month nearly, two lakh pregnant women have registered under this scheme,” Naveen informed.

With an obvious aim to woo the rural electorate ahead of the three-tier panchayat elections scheduled early next year, the ruling BJD has of late unveiled several new schemes for improved rural healthcare, village road connectivity, education and public distribution system.

Official sources said the Mamata scheme aims to cover all pregnant women above 19 years associated with various rural projects in the state. An assistance of Rs 5000 will be given in installments to every eligible pregnant woman.

Official sources said the Mamata scheme will be the largest state-sponsored scheme after the Rs two a kg rice scheme. Nearly six lakh pregnant women will be covered every year under Mamata resulting in an annual disbursement of Rs 350 crore. For the subsidized rice scheme, the state government spends around Rs 900 crore annually.

“A unique feature of Mamata scheme is that fund transfer to beneficiaries will only be done through electronic means directly to their accounts. This is the first time direct electronic transfer of funds to beneficiary accounts through online banking has been attempted on such a largescale in the country in any social sector programme,” Naveen, who interacted with beneficiaries of Ganjam, Koraput, Kalahandi, Mayurbhanj and Jajpur, among others, through video conferencing, said. “I call upon all the bankers of the State to come forward and partner Government in this revolution. This is true financial inclusion and a definite step towards financial empowerment of rural women,” he added.

Koraput Loosing its Chilling Identity

Koraput Loosing its Chilling Identity

Koraput Loosing its Chilling Identity

The effect of climate change is taking its toll in Orissa. Erratic monsoon and the extreme heat conditions prevalent in the state from the past few years is just an indication of what lies in store for Orissa in future.

Another glaring example of the inclement weather conditions in Orissa has become evident as Koraput, considered one of the coolest districts in the state, has shown ample signs of heating up well above normal temperature, thus becoming a major reason of concern for the Mets.

For the first time in the past 30 years, the district has recorded a maximum temperature of 32° C in the month of October both in plains as well as in the higher reaches against the normally recorded 25° C recorded in the past.

This in fact has been a major area of concern for residents  who are not habituated of such high temperatures here. Environmentalists are at a loss  of words over the exact reason for the rise in temperature as about 16,000 sq km area of the district is still under forest cover and this area is considered vast enough to provide cool climate to the district. Rapid industrialization, exploration of mines and massive air pollution are being cited as the reason for the changing climatic scenario in the district. For most of the environmentalist, the situation is man made and could be curtailed by reducing the pollution levels in the district.

And when the entire district is reeling under such unprecedented rise in temperature, it is but natural for the residents to come out in open against the administration. People of Koraput have now started to push the environment ministry to take up the matter seriously before the condition worsens further.

Parab: The Melting Point of Tribal Culture in Orissa

Boat Race- parab Festival

Boat Race- parab Festival

Koraput is blessed with a broad panorama of beautiful hills, enchanting streams, spectacular waterfalls, wonderful caves and lush green valleys. The land dominated by ancient tribal is also noted for its vibrant culture. Giving expression to the culture of the land is the festivals of festivals – The Parab.

 Organized since 1996 by the district council of Koraput,Parab  fetival celebrates the tribal life and culture. It does not merely showcase  the rich tribal culture of Koraput, it also serves as the forum for various tribes, with distinct cultures and life experiences, to interact and work towards preserving their indigenous cultural heritage, arts and handicrafts.

 With the passage of time, the Parab  festival has become popular with its fair share of [patrons and both local and international tourists. It is a one of a kind festival in terms of the number of participants and events involved. More than 50,000 participants flock to Koraput top attend this mega festival that runs for a month and hosts cultural events, quiz, essays and debate competitions, a craft mela, artist camps, seminars, book fair, boat race, mountain trekking among other things. But what draws the maximum attention in the festival are folk arts, tribal dance and other cultural events that reflect the cultural heritage of the tribes of Koraput.

 The festival provides a platform to the talented tribal youth in the area and encourages them to come forward and participate in preserving their heritage. It is a forum for interaction of different tribes from all over the country.

 The Kabi Sammelans (gathering of poets) and artist camps are a highlight of the festival and brings together unique talent from all over.

 The festival gives the world a glimpse into the kaleidoscopic world of the tribes. Works of eminent writers on the hardships of tribal life are available in the book fair. The trekking expedition is organized into the highest peak of the Orissa – the Deomali.

 The festival has been instrumental in reviving many otherwise fading folk dances and music threatened due to rapid industrialization, urbanization, modernization and cultural invasion.


College Time – A unique Effort By Young Animators of Ravenshaw University

Animation- College Time

College Time - A unique Animation Project by students of Ravenshaw University

Braving all odds, a group of group of 42 students from Ravenshaw university have been successful in creating an animation film entirely by their own efforts. The movie named “ College Time” will be screened in the Ravenshaw college campus .

The film based on the life of college students has all ingredients to make it popular among the students. Incidents like ragging, college election that go hand in hand with studies in the life of a college student has been dealt with in the movie.

 “College Time”  is all about the life of students. The lead character, Akash, comes from a small village and the story is on how he encounters various problems right from the time of his admission to the completion of his course,” said Chandan Behera, the director.

Behera, a Plus Three philosophy final year student, said he wanted to pursue a career in animation. But he failed to realize his dream because of some problems.

But so strong was his determination that without any professional training , he along with 41 other students from Ravenshaw university went ahead with the project and finally made it a reality. The movie took an year to complete and that too any professional help.

All the 22 characters in the film have been created by Behera, who is the animator and director. He also handled all post-production work. The 41 others in the crew helped him right from sound recording to the final production.

“It was a dream of all of the students involved in the project. Though there are certain areas that could have been done better, we are sure we will overcome the shortcomings in other projects,” said Dilip Biswal, the dramatic secretary ofRavenshawUniversity.

The entire movie has been made with a budget of Rs 25,000 and a free CD will be provided to all students and those present during the screening of the film atRavenshawUniversity.

Young Achyut Lifts Orissa to New High

Achyutananda Sahoo - Young Weightlifter from Orissa

Achyutananda Sahoo - Young Weightlifter from Orissa

His appearance doesn’t tell you a bit about the steely determination that he wears. Meet young Achyutanand Sahu, the young weightlifter from Orissa who picked up a couple of gold medals and a silver in the 62kg category at the commonwealth weightlifting Championships which is currently on atCape Town,South Africa.

The 17-year-old, whose parents struggle to make both ends meet, bagged two gold and a silver in the 62kg weight category to put his village on the world map. It was sheer determination at display when the poor chap defied poeverty  and unfavourable situations to  lift the title atCape Town.

The locals in the nondescript Manipura village erupted in joy after the success of the local boy.

“We are poor people. I never dreamed that my son would travel abroad and make us proud. I am very happy. I have no words to describe,” Bairagi Chandra Sahoo, father of the gold medal winner, said.

“I have four children, Achyut is the eldest. The crop return has not been enough to make both ends meet. Thus, to augment the income, I run a small grocery shop,” added the proud father.

Achyutananda’s mother was also jubilant at her son’s success. And as there are awards pouring in from every nook and corner, the days of ordeal seem to be over for the family of the young sportsperson.

It is now upto the government to nurture this young talent and provide hime with the right ambience fopr his talent to flourish.


Buddhism in Jagannath Cult

Lord jagannath in Buddha

Lord jagannath in Buddha

Buddhism as a religion had a special appeal in Orissa. The presence of  many universities and shrines in the state is a pointer to the fact that Budhism in fact had been a strong force in Orissa at certain period of time. It is hardly a matter of surprise than that the most prevalent cult in Orissa today, the Jagannath cult has deeply ingrained elements of Buddhism in it.

There is lot of controversy among the historians regarding the birth place of Gautam Buddha. Though it is widely believed that Lord Buddha was born in Nepal, there is a set of historians who are firm in proving Kapileswar in Orissa as his actual place of birth. This fact is corroborated from the discovery of a stone inscription from Kapileswar in Orissa. The epigraph describes that “King Devanam Priyadarsi Asoka after 20 years of his anointment as king, came to Kalinga and worshipped at this spot, because Buddha Sakyamuni was born here. He also caused a stone pillar to be set-up and made the village of Lummuni tax free.” This particular inscription is now in Asutosh Museum of Kolkata.

In addition to this references in Buddhist literature about Tapasu and Bhallika  ( two merchant brothers from Kalinga) becoming the first disciples of Lord Buddha  give credence to the  belief of Lord Buddha being born in Orissa.

If  Buddhism had its genesis in Orissa and Lord Buddha actually roamed and lived in the soils of Orissa before shifting elsewhere to preach his sermons, it is but natural that the religious practices of Orissa itself had  been at some point of time influenced by Buddhism. Lord Budha being depicted as the ninth incarnation of Lord Jagannath  might well be a direct shortfall of this.

Further, references about Lord Jagannath is found in the Buddhist literature Gyansiddhi of  Indrabhuti which allude to direct connection between Buddhism and the Jagannath cult.  The couplet mentioned below from the book is a pointer to the same

Pranipatya Jagannatham Sarvajina Vararchitam.

Sarva Buddha Mayam Siddhi Vyapinam Gaganopamam´

It should be worth notice that Lord Jagannath is referred to as Buddha for the first time in this scripture only.

The goal of Buddhism is to achieve Nirvana or Salvation. For achieving this one should follow the three jewels (Tri Ratna) of Buddha i.e. Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Similarly in Jagannatha cult, to get Salvation from this illusory world, one should take refuge at the feet of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra. The Triad of Jagannatha is recognized as Buddhists triad of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Now coming to the most glorious festivals of Lord Jagannath – the Car festival; there are interminable arguments extended in favor of the same that goes on to prove the Buddhist conncetion that it has. The famous historian W. Hunter in his book  – “The Indian Empire” had compared the Car Festival of Lord Jagannath with the tooth-relic ceremony of Lord Buddha. The famous Chinese traveller Hieun-Tsang had also stated that in order to commemorate the day of enlightenment of Gautam Buddha, the Buddhists used to  take his remains in a chariot to celebrate the car festival. The car festival of Lord Jagannath and other ceremonies have been derived from this Buddhist cult practice only.

Buddhist literatures are abound with the fact that a person named Therakhema brought the  tooth-relic of Gautam Buddha  to the  Kalinga and it was worshipped  in Danta Puri i.e the present day township of  Puri. The relics used to be installed in a chariot annually and the festival of chariot puling was being organized. The practice has lived on in form of the car festival of lord Jagannath.

There is a resemblance of one incomplete Jagannatha with Buddha at Bodhagaya. For this many scholars have accepted Lord Jagannatha as the symbol of Lord Buddha. The incarnation (Avatara) of Jagannatha in the form of Lord Buddha has also given the strong evidence to the above contention.