| Women making paan on Shrestha Odiani competition organised in Bhubaneswar. Picture by Ashwinee Pati |
Bhubaneswar, April 15: Dancing to Bollywood tunes during a friend’s or relative’s marriage is the order of the day for young girls in the state. However, the scene was completely different a few decades ago when women exhibited their skills of singing folk verses accompanied with weeping in a specific way called kandana – something they used to be trained in since childhood.
In fact, other customs such as pana bhanga (preparing betel quid) or hulahuli — the typical sound made in chorus by women during religious ceremonies — have also diminished.
An effort to bring together Oriya women who still hold the customs dear was recently made by cultural group Sambhabana. More than 50 women from different regions of the state participated in an event organised by the group that included contests of Oriya traditions and customs.
The contests were based on pana bhanga wherein the women had to prepare betel quids with numerous elements that are used traditionally, sankha phunka or blowing the conch, pitha or country cake preparation, Odiyani besabhusa or dressing up in traditional Oriya way and paramparika sangeeta or Oriya folk songs that included kandana and hulahuli.
“As a small girl I was trained by my mother and grandmother during religious festivals to learn the folk songs and art of weeping with grace during marriages of female relatives. But today, my granddaughter has such a huge burden of studies, that she has no idea about these Oriya customs,” said a 60-year-old Suryamani, a participant.
“Blowing the conch in a particular way and making the hulahuli sound during auspicious occasions was a must for Oriya women. But these are now fading away among young girls,” said Subhashree, another participant.
The contests for the title of Srestha Odiyani had begun on April 1. The final rounds began on April 10 and concluded on Thursday evening. Women aged between 35 and 65 years, dressed up in Orissa handloom sarees and adorning conventional jewellery, were seen singing religious folk songs and traditional lullabies in the paramparika sangeeta. Despite competing, they helped each other in preparing the betel quids.
“The participants performed so well on stage, many visitors to Ekamra Haat, the venue, were attracted towards the event and this helped spread awareness about Oriya customs,” said a judge of the contest, Arya Kumari Panigrahi.
The results will be declared on April 28 on the occasion of the birth anniversary of eminent Oriya social reformer Utkal Gouraba Madhusudan Das.