About the Festival
Danda Nata – is an ancient festival observed with much fervour amongst the people of Ganjam, the heartland of the erstwhile Kalinga Empire.
The participants in this festival are all males, who leave their family during the festival and observe austerity for a period ranging from 13 days or 18 days or 21 days, depending on the choice of the group.
The festival falls on the month of Chaitra ( March/April) and starts on the day of Chaitra Sankranti. The participants called Danduas or Pota Bhoktas roam around their villages with the deity of Danda Kali, the goddess of the festival. The festival is marked by various forms of dance performed by the Danduas beginning with the Parva dance, followed by the Hara- Parvati Dance, then the Fakir Fakirani Dance, the Savara and Savarani dance, Chadeya and Chadouni dance follows which is followed by enactment of specific portions of epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata and other mythological stories. Each dance performance requires two individuals a male and a female, since women don’t participate as Danduas, during the dance- a male dresses up as a female and enacts.
The Danda Nata concludes on Mahavishub Sankranti also known as Meru Sankranti. On that day the Danduas return to the Danda Kali temple of their locality, pay their obeisance to the goddess and the enact the Meru Jatra which involves stunts which inflicts wounds on the body of the Danduas. It is believed that the blood droplets of the Danduas on the holy pyre is a sign of purification and brings prosperity to the village.
The conclusion of Danda Nata is also marked by the beginning of the Odiya new year.